IRAQ: Iraqi officials say a car bomb has killed at least three people in
Najaf, a city holy to Shi'ite Muslims, the day before voting is set to
begin in Iraq's national election. The blast wounded more than 50
others Saturday near the Imam Ali shrine, which is heavily visited by
Iranian and Iraqi pilgrims.
The dead included two Iranians and one Iraqi.
Separate bombings near Baghdad polling stations killed at least 15
The attacks occurred despite increased security ahead of the election.
An al-Qaida group posted a message on the
Internet warning Sunni Muslims they face violence if they head to the
polls on Sunday.
CHILE - EARTHQUAKE: Powerful aftershocks have again rocked Chile as United Nations
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon began a two-day visit to assess damage
from the initial deadly earthquake and ensuing tsunami on February 27.
The strongest aftershock had a 6.6 magnitude and rattled south-central
Chile Friday. In the badly-hit city of Concepcion, which was closest to
the epicenter of the first quake, some residents ran into the streets
as the ground shook. Numerous aftershocks have been reported since last
Earlier in the day, Mr. Ban met with President Michelle Bachelet and
pledged up to $10 million from a United Nations fund for quake relief.
US - TURKEY - ARMENIA: Turkey warned the United States Friday that a resolution passed by a
U.S. congressional panel calling the World War One-era mass killings of
Armenians by Ottoman Turks "genocide" could hurt relations.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Friday it is not for other
parliaments to judge Turkey. Davutoglu accused the Obama administration
of not doing enough to block the vote. The diplomat added he expects
the White House to prevent the non-binding resolution from going before
the full House of Representatives for consideration.
AFGHANISTAN: A new NATO policy says Afghan forces must be included in the planning and execution of all night raids that are carried out by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. The directive says the Afghanistan National Security Force should be the "first force seen" and the "first voices heard" by the occupants of a compound as it is being entered. The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, issued a directive this week outlining the new rules aimed at addressing Afghan concerns.
US - ASIA: The U.S. State Department says a senior diplomat will leave Sunday for a tour of Japan and five other Asian countries.
Assistant Secretary of State for Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt
Campbell will also tour Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and
Thailand. In Vientiane, Assistant Secretary Campbell will meet with senior Laotian government officials and attend the U.S.-Lao Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. He will also meet with representatives of the Mekong River Commission. The State Department said that in Japan, which will be the final
destination of the tour ending March 17, Campbell will discuss the
issue of the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps' Futenma air station
on the southern island of Okinawa.
THAILAND POL: Thailand's fugitive former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, used his
Twitter (online) page Saturday to call on his supporters to join a mass
anti-government rally later this month.
The rally on March 14 is to be led by the pro-Thaksin United Front for
Democracy against Dictatorship or UDD, known for wearing red shirts.
UDD spokesman Sean Boonpracong says the three key aims of the
protesters are to dissolve the parliament, bring back the 1997
constitution and keep the Privy Council -- the advisory body to King
Bhumipol Adulyadej -- to stay out of politics.
THAILAND - BURMA: A rights group has called on Thailand to investigate the use of lethal force by Thai soldiers against Burmese migrants, allegedly resulting in the deaths of three children. New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a press release Friday that Thai soldiers fired on a truck carrying 13 undocumented migrant workers from Burma on February 25 after the driver failed to stop for inspection. The rights group said it had obtained photos showing the truck riddled with bullet holes. Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW, said the soldiers who fired into the truck, apparently without concern for who could be killed or wounded, need to face the consequences.
BURMA DRUGS: Burma's official media reported Saturday that troops confiscated
grenades and other weapons from a border hide-out used by suspected
drug traffickers, after an earlier gunbattle killed 13 policemen and
members of their patrol.
The state-run New Light of Myanmarsaid the shoot-out took place
February 20 near the northeastern town of Tachileik, which borders
The report said an anti-drug squad was patrolling the Mekong river near
Tachileik when it encountered drug traffickers and a gunbattle broke
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