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【整理】SENEWS-2004-0823-1530

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It is 15:30 Universal Time. I’m Phoebe Zimmermann in Washington.

1. More clashes have been reported in the Iraqi city of Najaf. United States forces battled fighters loyal to Shiite Muslim clergyman Muqtada al-Sadr. There were explosions and gunfire near the Imam Ali Shrine and a large burial area. Reports say American airplanes and helicopters fired at positions held by the Shiite fighters during the night. There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries. In other news, an American spokesman said a Turkish citizen and two Iraqis were killed in an attack in the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit.

2. In Tehran, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Iran is not supporting Shiite clergyman Muqtada al-Sadr. Mr. Khatami said his government has never supported any group in Iraq. He also said he believes the fighting is wrong because the clergyman’s supporters did not start the conflict. Last week, President Khatami called for an urgent meeting of leaders of Muslim nations to discuss the fighting in Najaf. Most Muslims in Iran are Shiites.

3. The government of Indonesia says it is investigating reports that an Indonesian citizen has died in Iraq. The reports from Iraq said the Indonesian was killed Sunday in the northern city of Mosul. They said the victim worked for a German company. Indonesia has more Muslims than any other nation. It opposed the United States-led military action in Iraq.

4. A North Korean official says his government finds it impossible to meet American officials for more talks about ending North Korea’s nuclear program. The official denounced President Bush’s recent comments about North Korean leader Kim Jong- Il. North Korea also said it would not join meetings to prepare for talks next month about the nuclear program. This week, South Korean officials are visiting China and Japan to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue. They also will discuss plans for organizing preparatory talks among diplomats from those four countries, Russia and the United States.

5. In Afghanistan, lawyers defending three American men have presented evidence linking one of the men to a former Afghan official. A video tape recording shows former Education Minister Yunus Qanuni congratulating American Jonathan Idema. Mr. Qanuni also offers to provide security officers to assist Mr. Idema’s forces. Afghan government lawyers say the three Americans operated a private prison in Kabul and tortured prisoners. Mr. Idema says he and the other two men often spoke with American Defense Department officials. The Bush administration and the military have denied any connection to Mr. Idema.

You are listening to the news in VOA Special English.

6. Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Islamabad for talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The Afghan leader has said the main issue to be discussed will be attempts by the two nations to oust militants along their shared border. Mr. Karzai’s two-day visit comes less than two months before presidential elections in Afghanistan. He wants to make sure that Pakistan will prevent raids by fighters hoping to prevent the vote.

7. Australian security experts say terrorists are entering Southeast Asian nations because officials there fail to recognize false travel documents. The experts spoke at a security conference in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. They said personal computer technology makes it much easier for people to produce false documents that appear to be official. The Australian security experts are offering training to help recognize false documents. Officials from Brunei, East Timor and Indonesia are attending the Kuala Lumpur conference. Officials also came from Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

8. Thousands of people have marched in Dacca Bangladesh. The protesters were angry about a deadly explosion Saturday at an opposition gathering. They say it was an attempt to murder Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the opposition Awami League. A small bomb exploded as she spoke near the party’s headquarters in Dacca. She was not hurt, but 19 people were killed.

9. Thai police have prevented a large bomb from exploding in the capital of the southern province of Yala. Three bomb explosions in the city Saturday injured 11 people. In recent months, violence in Thailand’s three southern provinces has increased. Many Muslims live in the area. Thai Muslims have criticized the country’s central government for unfair treatment.

10. Lawmakers in Taiwan have approved reforms that will change the island's election system and reduce the number of seats in parliament. A proposed constitutional amendment reduces the number of seats from 225 to 113. Lawmakers approved the measure by a vote of 200 to 1. Another reform permits only 1 candidate to win in each voting area. Currently, Taiwanese voters must complete 2 ballots in an election, one for a candidate, and another for a political party. The reforms will take effect in 2007.

11. A powerful storm is moving toward Taipei Taiwan. The storm called Typhoon Ella has winds moving as fast as 120 kilometers an hour. Weather experts say Typhoon Ella will hit the northern part of Taiwan Tuesday if it continues on its current path. Officials have warned people living in the mountains to seek shelter.

12. And in sports news, Ryu Seung Min of South Korea has won the men’s table tennis event at the Olympic Games in Greece. Ryu defeated Wang Hao of China four games to two. Wang Liqing of China finished third in the table tennis competition.

Briefly here again is the major news of the hour.

More clashes have been reported in the Iraqi city of Najaf. North Korea says it is impossible to meet American officials for more talks about North Korea’s nuclear program. In Afghanistan, lawyers defending three American men have presented evidence linking one of the men to a former Afghan official. And Thai police have prevented a large bomb from exploding in the capital of the southern province Yala.

That’s the news in VOA Special English. I’m Phoebe Zimmermann
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