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【整理】SENEWS-2004-0817-1530

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It is 15:30 Universal Time. I’m Steve Ember in Washington.

1. Explosions and gunfire are reported in the Iraqi city of Najaf. Supporters of Shiite Muslim clergyman Muqtada al-Sadr have been fighting Iraqi and American troops in Najaf for almost two weeks. A group of Iraqi political and religious leaders arrived in the city Tuesday. Leaders at a national political conference in Baghdad sent the group. Sheikh Hussein al-Sadr is leading the eight-member team. He is a family member of the clergyman. Sheikh Hussein al-Sadr says his group will offer a pardon to the fighters if they agree to disarm, leave holy places and join the political process. Also on Tuesday, at least seven people were killed in Baghdad when a shell exploded on a busy street.

2. In Pakistan, gunmen have killed three supporters of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party. The three were shot as they offered campaign materials to people in the town of Fatehjang. The man chosen as the next Prime Minister is attempting to win an election in the town. Shaukat Aziz must win a seat in parliament before he can be Prime Minister. Last month, there was a failed attempt to kill Mr. Aziz in Fatehjang. Police say they do not know who was responsible for the attacks. But the Pakistan People’s Party has blamed supporters of Mr. Aziz for the violence.

3. In Afghanistan, a private army has moved to within 30 kilometers of the western city of Herat. Troops loyal to Pashtun rebel commander Amanullah Khan pushed back the forces of Herat governor Ismail Khan in the latest fighting. American airplanes and hundreds of Afghan National Army forces are now being sent to the area. Violence in areas outside the main cities in Afghanistan has raised concerns over security for the country’s presidential election in October. Parliamentary elections have been postponed until April.

4. In India, the Supreme Court has ordered the government of Gujarat state to reinvestigate about 2,000 cases linked to riots two years ago. Police reported more than 4,000 riot cases after a train carrying Hindu activists was set on fire. The fire killed 59 people. About 2,000 people died in the rioting that followed the fire. Most of those killed were Muslims. The court told the government in Gujarat to establish a high-level police committee to look again at cases where no suspects had been identified. Human rights groups claimed police and state officials failed to be pro-active during the riots. Some said the state government treated Muslims unfairly.

You are listening to the news in VOA Special English.

5. China has asked that North Korea attend meetings to plan for the next six-nation talks about the North Korean nuclear program. China’s ambassador on the nuclear issue said Tuesday that all sides should agree to meet to prepare for the talks. Those talks are supposed to take place in Beijing before the end of September. North Korea said Monday there is nothing to be gained from the planned meetings. It also said the United States has shown no interest in making the discussions useful. The Australian Foreign Minister flew to North Korea after meeting with Chinese officials in Beijing. He said he hopes Australia can show North Korea how to end the disagreement.

6. China says it has successfully tested a new guided missile. Project researcher Fang Dawei told the China News Service that China tested a new version of a guided missile several days ago. Mr. Fang said the missile hit its target. The report did not link the missile test to Taiwan. But Mr. Fang said the missile was developed to help improve China’s military and to help, in his words, reunite the country. China considers Taiwan as part of its territory.

7. The United States says it will not judge the vote in Venezuela last Sunday until official results are announced. But American officials say reports of election wrongdoing should be fully investigated. Venezuelan opposition leaders say they will present evidence of possible problems when they meet Tuesday with international election observers. Former American President Jimmy Carter has said the election observers found no problems with the voting process. He said the observers agreed that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez won the vote.

8. Oil prices are falling for a second day. Investigators had been worried that political unrest in Venezuela could reduce the country’s oil exports. Venezuela is the world’s fifth largest producer of oil. Oil prices dropped to less than 46 dollars a barrel earlier Tuesday in trading in New York City. On Monday, prices hit record highs of nearly 47 dollars a barrel. The prices are about 25 percent higher than at the end of June。

9. The United Nations has reported a sudden increase in the number of refugees fleeing the Darfur area of western Sudan. UN officials say 450 refugees entered northeastern Chad during the past few days. They say that is the largest number in recent months. There already are about 200,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad. Arab fighters allied with the government of Sudan are accused of attacking black civilians in Darfur. The attacks have forced more than one million people from their homes. The Sudanese government denies that it supports the attacks. The government has said it will take steps to control the Arab fighters.

10. And in sports news, a team from the United Arab Emirates has won the first Olympic medal ever presented to the Middle Eastern-nation. Ahmde Almaktoum won the men’s double track shooting event. Earlier, Mikhail Nestruev of Russia won the men’s 50-meter shooting event.

And now briefly, here again is the major news of the hour.

Explosions and gunfire …… Iraqi city of Najaf as Iraqi political and religious leaders arrived there to end almost two weeks of fighting. In Afghanistan, a private army has moved to within 30 kilometers of the western city of Herat. And China says it has successfully tested a new guided missile.

That’s the news in VOA Special English, Steve Ember reporting.

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