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Monday
Jan102011

Japanese, South Korean Defense Ministers Discuss Military Pact

Photo Courtesy - Chung Sung-Jun/ Getty Images(SEOUL, South Korea) -- Japanese and South Korean defense ministers met in Seoul, South Korea Monday to discuss a bilateral military pact.

In a rare show of unity, Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said Japan and Korea must deepen military exchanges, while his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-Jin, declared the bilateral relationship stronger than ever.

Japan and South Korea haven't had a military pact in place since the end of World War II, when Japan ended its colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.  While the two countries have economic and diplomatic ties, a military exchange remains sensitive because many Koreans believe Japan hasn't apologized properly for its past.

North Korea's attack on Yeonpyeong Island last November may force these countries to look beyond those differences to insure safety.  Kitazawa and Kwan-Jin condemned the attacks and said both sides hoped to share intelligence, and provide support for military services.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jan102011

George Clooney in Sudan to Bring Attention to Independence Referendum

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(SUDAN, Africa) -- George Clooney is in Sudan, ahead of a week-long referendum that began Sunday and will likely lead to the southern part of the country declaring its independence.

Clooney has been actively involved for years in ending the civil conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, so the elections are important to him.  He tells ABC News, "I get an awful lot of undue attention at times in my life, and I thought I could parlay that, and if I was going to get that kind of attention, I should do it somewhere where people really need the attention."

Clooney says it's important that the referendum not result in more violence.  To that end, his organization Not On Our Watch helped launch a website late last month, SatSentinel.org, that is monitoring troops in the country.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan092011

Israelis Worry Anti-Semitism to Blame for Giffords' Shooting

Photo Courtesy - Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords(JERUSALEM) -- Many in Israel are wishing Rep. Gabrielle Giffords a full and speedy recovery.  A strong and vocal supporter of the state of Israel, Giffords promised to stand by the nation's security needs and called on Arab leaders to recognize Israel's right to exist.

She first traveled to Israel in 2001 and later wrote about what a profound effect the trip had on her own sense of Jewish identity.  Giffords is also known in Israel for legislation she introduced to help holocaust survivors in Arizona when she was a state senator. That law eliminated the statute of limitations for collecting insurance claims by victims of the holocaust and their heirs.

Giffords identifies as Jewish and talked about it in her congressional campaign back in 2006.  Her father's family were Jews from Lithuania; her great-grandfather was a rabbi.  It was her grandfather, Akiba Hornstein, who changed the family name to Giffords to avoid anti-Semitism in the 1940s.  With reports that Giffords' shooter named Adolf Hitler's hateful manifesto against the Jews, "Mein Kampf," as one of his favorite books, there is some concern in Israel that anti-Semitism may have played a role in Saturday's attack.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan092011

Passenger Plane Crashes in Iran, 50 Said to Survive

FIle photo. Photo Courtesy - THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- A passenger plane carrying about 100 people crashed Sunday in Iran.  There are conflicting reports about the number of people on the jet.  The semi-official Iranian news agency, Fars, reported 50 people had survived the crash.

The IranAir flight originated in Tehran and was headed for Omuriyeh in northwest Iran.  The BBC quotes a West Azerbaijani official and an Iranian TV website which reported that the plane took off an hour later than scheduled and came down because of bad weather conditions.

Iran's civil fleet of aircraft is in poor shape, mostly because the planes are old and said to be badly maintained.  There have been multiple crashes involving Iranian aircraft recently.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan092011

Secretary of State Clinton to Persian Gulf

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Secretary of State left late Saturday for a seven day trip to the Middle East and is expected to press Arab states to openly support tougher sanctions for Iran because of its nuclear efforts.

Secretary Hillary Clinton is expected to visit the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar ahead of the next round of nuclear talks with Iran next week in Istanbul.  Clinton will likely lay out expectations and offer Arab nations information on following the United Nations sanctions on Iran.

State Department officials also say the secretary will encourage more Arab countries to open embassies in Iraq.

A senior U.S official told the Wall Street Journal the main focus of the trip is actually pushing Arab nations toward a more "civil society."  The Obama administration has felt some heat from activists who feel it is not working hard enough for political reform in parts of the Middle East.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan092011

Mexican Drug Violence Reaches Unimaginable Proportion

Photo Courtesy - STR/AFP/Getty Images(MEXICO CITY) -- The bodies of some two dozen people were found, most of them decapitated and many bearing notes, in the Mexican resort city of Acapulco on Saturday.  Some of the notes identified the dead as extortionists and claimed responsibilities for the killings on behalf of the Sinaloa drug cartel.

The Los Angeles Times reports most of the bodies were found away from the city's central market area, which rival gangs are fighting to control.

The Sinaloa cartel may be trying to move in on the territory of its rival, the Beltran Leyva gang, which appears weakened by the recent deaths and captures of some of its leaders.  The Times says the Leyva operation has been the top drug operation in Acapulco but may now be struggling, making the area ripe for takeover.  Nationwide, the Times says the Sinaloa cartel is the strongest in Mexico.

Officials say all of the victims were men under the age of 30.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan092011

American Woman Feared Held in Iran Found Safe

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The State Department says an American woman who was the focus of unconfirmed media reports that she had been arrested in Iran for espionage while entering from Armenia is safe and not in Iranian custody.

"We have located the U.S. citizen who appears to have been the subject of the reports and confirmed that the individual is safe," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said late Saturday. "She is not in Iran."

He could not provide further details.

A U.S. official told ABC News that the woman is in Istanbul, Turkey, and that American consular officials are in touch with her.

On Thursday, reports in some state-run Iranian media outlets said an American woman had been arrested by customs officials for hiding "spying technology or a microphone" in her teeth while trying to enter northwestern Iran from neighboring Armenia.

On Friday, State Spokesman P.J. Crowley cast doubt on the reports of the woman's arrest as he said that neither Armenia nor Iran had a record of an American woman entering Iran through a checkpoint along their borders.

"We have no information to corroborate this alleged incident," Crowley said.

He said that "in addition to checking our own records, we have contacted Armenian authorities and through our Swiss protecting power the Iranian government concerning these reports. Neither Iran nor Armenia reports having any record of a U.S. citizen crossing or attempting to cross the Iran-Armenia border as indicated in media accounts."

Attempts by American officials to confirm the woman's citizenship and identity proved difficult as contradictory information began to appear in other Iranian media outlets that denied the initial reports and said no American had been detained. The contradictions continued on Saturday as new media reports rom a senior Iranian police official provided even more contradictory details on the woman's alleged arrest and identity.

Gen. Ahmad Geravand told the ISNA news agency that the woman was 34-year-old Hal Fayalan and that she had been arrested at a border crossing with Azerbaijan. He said she "was on a mission for the Americans to film the country's borders."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Saturday
Jan082011

More US Aid to Pakistan, Despite Misgivings

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- When Vice President Biden visits Pakistan next week he will reportedly carry a substantial aid package to the country, considered a top ally in the war on terror.  Pakistan is a troubling ally, however, with much of its population distrustful of the United States' presence and largely because of that distrust, it's a government less cooperative than Washington would like.

The Washington Post, quoting a senior Obama administration official who requested anonymity, reports the aid will include military, intelligence and economic elements for a country already targeted to receive $3 billion from the U.S. in 2011.  Pakistan complains U.S. aid, particularly helicopter gunships, is slow to arrive.

The decision to increase aid came in the White House review of its Afghanistan war policy.  It goes against the advice of some officials grown tired of the Pakistani military delay in operations in Waziristan, where the U.S. would like to see terrorist training camps targeted.  Many U.S. officials feel Pakistan is not aggressive enough against terrorist operations along its border and inside its tribal belt.

This move could be seen as calling the bluff of Pakistani officials who complain that the U.S. does not understand their security needs, or as a redoubled effort to overcome Pakistani doubts about U.S. goals in their country.

The timing of the aid increase may be a key factor.  The administration official told the Post that Pakistanis may realize they have more "cachet" or influence right now, with Afghanistan and Pakistan the administration's top foreign policy challenge, but they may also realize their time is over for "maximum leverage" in terms of getting something from the U.S. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jan082011

North Korea Renews Overture to South Korea

Photo Courtesy - Yonhap News Agency(SEOUL, South Korea) -- The North Korean government of Kim Jong-il  on Saturday renewed its New Year's Day offer of peace talks with its neighbor to the South.  Pyongyang says the offer is unconditional and aimed at peace and reconciliation.  North Korea would like the talks to begin as early as late January or the beginning of February.

This comes six weeks after North Korea shelled a South Korean Island, killing four people in an attack it said was in retaliation for South Korean military drills in waters the North claims as its own.

South Korea, which rejected the earlier call, says it will review this request.  South Korean Unification Ministry Spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said, "It is still hard to say North Korea has made an official proposal for talks...but as today's statement contains more details, we will review it."

South Korea has said it will hold talks with North Korea only if it exhibits sincerity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan072011

Secretary Clinton Meets Saudi King and Lebanese Prime Minister in NYC

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in New York City Friday afternoon to meet with Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, who was recently discharged from the hospital and is recovering from surgery.
 
“We are delighted that the king, a valued friend and ally, is ready to receive visitors, and the secretary will wish him a rapid recovery,” her spokesman said Friday.
 
The meeting comes ahead of Clinton’s visit to the Arabian peninsula. She departs Saturday for the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.
 
Clinton also met in New York Friday with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The State Department Friday said Clinton met with Hariri to “reiterate our support for a sovereign, stable and politically independent Lebanon.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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