CLINTON GULF TRIP: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States believes Iran is becoming a military dictatorship.
Speaking in front of students in Qatar Monday, Clinton said Iran's elite military force, the Revolutionary Guard, is "in effect, supplanting the government."
Clinton's comments come as she tours the Gulf region to promote efforts to increase pressure against Iran for its nuclear program.
On her next stop in Saudi Arabia she meets with Saudi King Abdullah as well as Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal to rally Arab support for new sanctions on Iran. On Sunday at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Clinton said Washington wants a peaceful solution to the nuclear controversy with Iran, but will not engage the Iranians while they are - in her words - "building their bomb." Clinton said Iran leaves the international community little choice but to impose greater costs for its "provocative steps."
The United States has been pressing the U.N. Security Council to impose a fourth set of sanctions on Iran, which has refused to stop enriching uranium.
AFGHANISTAN: U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan pressed forward Monday with a major offensive to clear Taliban militants out of their last major stronghold in the southern province of Helmand. Some 15,000 U.S., British and Afghan troops are involved in operations centering on the town of Marjah, in the biggest joint-operation since the war began in 2001.
Efforts to win the support of residents in the area suffered a major setback Sunday when two rockets fired by coalition forces missed their targets, accidentally killing 12 Afghan civilians. NATO took responsibility for the incident. Top commander U.S. General Stanley McChrystal conveyed his apologies to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who ordered an investigation into the deaths.
Afghan officials say at least 27 insurgents have been killed during the fighting, while one U.S. and one British soldier were killed Saturday, the first day of the offensive.
BURMA - UN: The top United Nations human rights envoy arrived in Burma Monday for a five-day visit to evaluate progress on human rights in the military-ruled nation. Tomas Ojea Quintana is expected to urge the military government to allow opposition and ethnic political parties to participate in upcoming elections. Quintana has said he also wants to meet Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest.
Quintana's visit follows Saturday's release from detention of Tin Oo, the vice-chairman of Burma's opposition National League for Democracy.
The 83-year-old retired general and former defense minister was released after seven years of detention. Tin Oo said Sunday he is not happy with his freedom as long as other political prisoners are being held by Burma's military government.
AUSTRALIA-TERROR TRIAL: An Australian court sentenced five Muslim men to prison Monday for stockpiling explosive chemicals and firearms to be used in a terrorist attack. The men, all Australian Muslims, were convicted last October of gathering the weapons for an attack on an unknown target. They were given sentences ranging from 23 to 28 years. The court was shown more than 3,000 exhibits and heard from about 300 witnesses during the 10-month trial.
The judge prohibited the media from publishing the men's names.
SINGAPORE - CASINO: Singapore has opened its first casino, part of a campaign by the city-state to transform itself into a tourist hub and reduce its reliance on manufacturing. The Resorts World Sentosa casino welcomed its first visitors Sunday, an auspicious date that coincides with the first day of the Lunar New Year. The casino is part of a $4.7 billion complex built by Malaysia's Genting Group on Sentosa island, an islet linked to Singapore's main island by a bridge. The complex also houses a new Universal Studios movie theme park and high-end hotels.Singapore is trying to broaden its appeal to tourists and become more of a services-based economy, while shifting away from manufacturing work that its Asian neighbors can do more cheaply.
US-PRESIDENTS' BIRTHDAY: Millions of Americans are getting a day off work Monday for the U.S. observance of George Washington's birthday, although the holiday is often referred to as Presidents' Day.
Presidents' Day is when Americans pause to honor their national leaders, beginning with the country's first president, George Washington.
February is the birth month of two of the most respected U.S. presidents -- George Washington (1732), and Abraham Lincoln (1809) who freed the slaves.
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