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【整理】SENEWS-2004-0822-1530

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And we come now to 15:30 Universal Time.
In the news at this hour:

New fighting has begun between American forces and Iraq's Shiite resistance fighters in the Iraqi city of Najaf. The fighting began after American tanks took positions about 800 meters from the Imam Ali Shrine. American military planes attacked targets near the Muslim religious center. They hit Shiite fighters in the city’s burial area. The United States has not commented on the battle.

Talks in Najaf between Shiite religious leaders and rebel clergyman Muqtada al-Sadr’s militants are said to have made no progress. In another development, Iraqi government officials said more than 40 militants were killed in fighting in the city of Kufah.

Angry protests were reported in cities and towns across Bangladesh after an attack against the country’s main opposition movement. The attack happened at a political gathering of the Awami League. Attackers exploded bombs after opposition leader Sheikh Hasina had just finished speaking to supporters at the meeting. She escaped with minor injures. But at least 18 people were killed and more than 100 others were injured. Following the attack, protesters hijacked and burned a train traveling to the capital Dacca. They also attacked a train station in the port city of Chittagong .

Three bombs have exploded in southern Thailand injuring at least 11 people. The explosions took place in the capital of Yala province on Saturday. Violence has increased in southern Thailand in recent months. More than 300 people have been killed since January in a series of attacks blamed largely on Islamic militants. Thailand is mostly Buddhist. But the southern provinces have Muslim majorities. Thai Muslims in the south have been angered by what they say is unfair treatment by the central government.

In Kabul, United Nations officials have dismissed a request from a UN Union in New York that UN election workers be withdrawn from Afghanistan. A UN spokesman told reporters the world group will remain in Afghanistan until after presidential elections take place in a few weeks. He said the withdrawal request came from New York and not from Union workers in Afghanistan. The UN Union Committee in New York asked UN officials to withdraw workers from Afghanistan after a bombing last Thursday. UN workers escaped the attack on the voting station in western Afghanistan. Some security guards were injured.

You are listening to the news in VOA Special English.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas has condemned criminal charges brought by the United States against 3 suspected members of the organization. In a statement Hamas said the charges were part of a campaign by President Bush to gain more votes for the November presidential election. Hamas also said that it has no organizational connections to 2 suspects arrested last week. A third suspect told reporters he is willing to surrender if he can be guaranteed a fair trial. But he also said he does not think that is possible. He is currently in Syria.

Pakistani officials say they have discovered a plot by the al-Qaeda terrorist group to kill high-level civil and military officials and attack important places. Pakistani officials say they learned of the plot after the arrest of more than 10 local and foreign militants who were planning attacks. Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad says the suspects wanted to carry out a week of attacks everyday starting on August 13th. Targets included the home of President Pervez Musharraf and the headquarters of the Pakistani military.

Three Malaysians suspected of having bird flu do not have the disease. The three became sick after the deadly bird flu spread through their northern village. They were released Suday after blood tests show they had a kind of flu that was not avian influenza. Health officials are still testing another patient who was hospitalized Saturday with flu symptoms. That patient comes from the same northern village where bird flu was discovered Wednesday in chickens. The village Pasir Pekan is near the border with Thailand. 8 people have died of bird flu in that country this year.

Police in Norway are looking for thieves who stole the famous painting the Scream by Edward Munch. Reports say two armed men stole that painting and another M also by Munch. The museum in Oslo was open at the time of robbery.

And at the Olympic Games in Athens China has won gold medals in men's shooting and women's table tennis. The United States won a gold medal earlier in men's 8-all rowing competitions. Romania won the women's 8-all rowing competition. Poland, Denmark, Russia and Germany also won gold medals in rowing events. Track and Field competitions continue on Sunday.

And so briefly now here again the major news of this hour.

New fighting has begun between American forces and Iraqi Shiite resistance fighters in the Iraqi city of Najaf. Violence and protest strikes were reported in cities and towns across Bangladesh after an attack against the country's main opposition movement. And 3 bombs have exploded in southern Thailand injuring at least 11 people.

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