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Iran, Iraq leaders discuss boosting ties
"Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad telephoned his Iraqi counterpart Jalal Talabani and discussed boosting relations between the two neighbours, state media reported on Monday.
Sunday's conversation between the two leaders came a week after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki visited Tehran as part of a Middle East tour aimed at securing regional support for keeping his job following an inconclusive general election in March.
"I hope that with the formation of a new Iraqi government, bilateral ties will expand in different areas, especially in the economic and political fields," state television quoted Ahmadinejad as telling Talabani.
The Iraqi president said he hoped to travel to Iran once the new government is in place, the television said on its website.
Protracted coalition talks in Baghdad are set to come to a head after Iraq's highest court told parliament on Sunday to end the deadlock in electing a new prime minister and president.
Maliki has been locked in a battle for the premiership with former prime minister Iyad Allawi.
Iran has stepped up its diplomatic activity in the region in recent weeks, visiting Lebanon and holding telephone talks twice in eight days with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
In his talks with Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week, Maliki called Iraq's relations with its eastern neighbour "strategic" and urged Tehran to help rebuild his country."
The extensions of terror expand
5 killed in bombing at shrine in eastern Pakistan
"A bomb killed five people today at a shrine of a saint worshiped by both Sufi Muslims and Hindus in Pakpattan in Pakistan's Punjab. The attack is the latest at religious sites in Pakistan.
The blast, which was caused by a remotely detonated device, occurred at the gate of the Dargah Hazrat Baba Farid Ganjshakar shrine. Two men on a motorcycle placed the bomb hidden in a milk carton at the gate.
Two women were among the five people killed. At least 13 others were wounded in the bombing, which took place during morning prayers, and eight are in critical condition.
No group has taken credit for the attack, but the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the so-called Punjabi Taliban have claimed credit for previous attacks on religious institutions in Pakistan.
The Punjabi Taliban includes members and factions of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in particular is well known for carrying out sectarian terror attacks against minority Shia, Ahmadis, Sufis, and Christians in Pakistan.
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is an anti-Shia terror group that has integrated with al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan's tribal areas. The Lashkar-i-Jhangvi has an extensive network in Pakistan and serves as al Qaeda's muscle for terror attacks. The group has conducted numerous suicide and other terror attacks in the tribal areas, the Northwest Frontier Province, and in Punjab province.
Taliban target religious sites
Over the past few years, the Taliban and allied Pakistani terror groups have shown no reservations about striking inside mosques and other religious sites, as well as during religious processions and events [see list below]. There have been 28 major attacks on mosques and other Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007, according to information compiled by The Long War Journal."
And the contractions to the birth pains contract
Major 7.5 magnitude quake strikes off Indonesia
"(Reuters) - A major quake of 7.5 magnitude struck off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, on Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said a local tsunami watch was in effect but a wider tsunami threat was not seen."
Volcano puts Indonesian officials on high alert
"Indonesian officials have gone on high alert and have started evacuations as they warily monitor Mount Merapi, a volatile volcano in central Java that might erupt at any time.
"The local government is coordinating to evacuate around 40,000 villagers to the pre-assigned shelters," Neulis Auliasari of the national disaster coordination board said Monday.
Seismic activity has intensified, signaling that an eruption is imminent, according to Indonesian volcanologists.
The 3,000-meter Merapi is famously unpredictable, though. A pyroclastic flow -- a fast-moving burst of blistering gases and rock fragments -- is a key concern"
At least 27 dead, 15 missing in Myanmar in wake of cyclone
"At least 27 people were killed, 15 are missing and 2,500 homes were damaged in Myanmar as a result of Tropical Cyclone Giri, which slammed into the country Friday with wind speeds of up to 155 mph, state television reported Monday.
Giri made landfall Friday in western Myanmar immediately after winds strengthened to 155 mph, making the storm equal to a super typhoon, CNN meteorologists reported.
At landfall, it was stronger than Tropical Cyclone Nargis when it made landfall in May 2008, killing more than 100,000 people in southern Myanmar, the meteorologists said."
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Four More Years of War
"The Obama administration and its NATO allies simply have not given convincing answers to two strategic questions.
First, what will be accomplished by "defeating" the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan when terrorists bases now dot the global landscape? In other words, beating the bad guys in Afghanistan (and no one disputes they are very bad guys) won't mean the downfall or even the severe weakening of terrorism worldwide. Whatever happens in Afghanistan, terrorists will still be able to operate from Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, London, Jersey City, etc.
Second, what effect will winning or losing in Afghanistan have on Pakistan? Washington insists that Pakistan's fate hinges on the outcome in Afghanistan, but if that's so, why do the Pakistanis continue to provide the Taliban with sanctuary and arms even as they urge us to fight on in Afghanistan? It's hard to believe that Pakistan, a barely viable country of 180 million Muslims of very different stripes, will rise or fall on the fate of their far less potent neighbor.
But neither Washington nor its NATO partners even bother to answer these questions seriously. And they get away with it because the Western world is totally preoccupied with its economic distress.
So, facing little political headwinds, Western leaders just push on with their plans to stay in Afghanistan for at least another four years—and ignore the critics."
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