Friday, March 31, 2006

Blair Seeks to Improve Understanding Between West, Islam

As Britain becomes the latest Western country to reach out to Indonesia, Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Indonesian counterpart agreed to set up a joint "forum" intended to reduce misunderstandings between Islam and the West. Read

Taiwan Watches, Waits As Vatican Reaches Out to China

As Catholics in China and Taiwan, like others around the world, prepare to mark the anniversary of Pope John Paul II's death, the Vatican is signaling moves that could lead to a first-ever papal visit to China. But those moves could have significant, negative implications for Taiwan and its 300,000 Roman Catholics. Read

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Australian Gov't Threatens to Block Same-Sex Unions

An Australian territory seeking to become the first part of the country to legalize same-sex unions has run into difficulties, as the conservative federal government threatens to override the move. Read

Afghan Convert Saved, But Apostasy Problem Endures

An Afghan Christian threatened with execution for leaving Islam has arrived safely in the West, but religious freedom campaigners remain concerned about the broader and enduring problem of the shari'a-mandated death penalty in parts of the Islamic world. Read

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Arab States Encouraged to Go Nuclear

As the U.N. Security Council debates how to confront Iran over its nuclear activities, the head of the Arab League called on the world's Arab states to pursue "peaceful" nuclear energy programs. Read

Bush Urged to Cancel Meeting With African Leader After Alleged War Criminal Skips

President Bush is being urged to cancel a White House meeting with the president of Nigeria after the former leader of Liberia, exiled in Nigeria and wanted for war crimes, "disappeared" this week. Read

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Afghan Christian Reportedly Freed

Afghan Christian convert Abdul Rahman, who faced the possibility of execution for refusing to return to Islam, reportedly has been freed from custody following strong pressure from Western governments. Read

Embattled Blair Urges Allies to 'Tough It Out' in Iraq

British Prime Minister Tony Blair's views on Iraq and the important global role played by the United States brought applause from conservatives in the Australian parliament on Monday, but his comments did not please the Labor opposition -- the party historically allied to Blair's. Read

US Wants China, Others to Pay More to UN

As Beijing bristles at a Japanese proposal that would have China contribute considerably more to U.N. coffers, the United States also is exploring changes in U.N. funding that would have similar implications for China. Read

Monday, March 27, 2006

Convert Case Sparks Surge of Interest in Christianity Among Afghans

An Afghan Christian leader in the U.S. has welcomed reports that criminal charges may be dropped against an Afghan convert who was threatened with execution for refusing to return to Islam. The case has prompted strong international condemnation. Read

Afghan Convert May Go Free

Afghan authorities may drop apostasy charges carrying the death penalty against Christian convert Abdul Rahman, following sustained diplomatic pressure from countries with troops deployed in the Muslim country. Read

Friday, March 24, 2006

Japan to Move Ahead With Iran Oil Deal Despite Nuclear Concerns

As wrangling continues in the United Nations Security Council over how to tackle Iran's nuclear programs, Japan has confirmed that it is pressing ahead with a multi-billion-dollar oil deal with Iran that is opposed by the United States. Read

Australian PM Sickened by Plight of Afghan Convert

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a close U.S. ally who sent troops to support the U.S.-led liberation of Afghanistan, says he was sickened to hear that an Afghan convert to Christianity was facing the possibility of execution for apostasy. Read

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Commentary: Arc of Intolerance

In what may be an attempt to find a face-saving way out of an escalating diplomatic row, Afghan officials are now suggesting that a convert to Christianity may not be tried for the capital offense of apostasy on grounds of mental illness. But even if Abdul Rahman is spared and the crisis defused, the case has turned a spotlight on an issue that some experts have long warned would not go away and would need to be confronted -- the unreformed nature of the world's second largest religion. Read

China Says 'One Child' Policy Is a Success, but Problems Loom

China's government has ended any hopes that it may relax its controversial "one-child" policy despite concerns about abuses and warnings from economists about the ramifications for China of a rapidly aging and gender-skewed population. Read

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Pressure Builds Over Plight of Afghan Christian

The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, accustomed to warm receptions in Western capitals, is coming under growing outside pressure over the trial of a Christian facing a possible death sentence for converting from Islam. Read

Trial of Afghan Convert Emphasizes Need for Judicial Reform

The trial of an Afghan accused of apostasy for converting to Christianity is raising questions, not just about Afghanistan's Islam-based constitution, but also about difficulties in reforming the country's judicial system, which is dominated by Islamic hardliners. Read

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Pakistani Women Victims of Islamic Ordinances

Women in Pakistan face worsening discrimination, according to a new report that said "honor" killings are still a serious problem and that most of the thousands of women in jail are being held under controversial Islamic ordinances. Read

Apostasy Case Raises Questions About Islamic Constitutions

The plight of an Afghan Christian facing death for converting from Islam is refocusing attention on the new, post-transition constitutions of Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which give primacy to Islamic law but also include apparent contradictions. Read

Monday, March 20, 2006

Allies Downplay Differences Over China

The United States, Australia and Japan used their first ministerial-level security talks to discuss challenges posed by China's rise, but if there were any differences among the three over how China should be handled, they were hard to find. Read

Pakistan Troubled by US Nuclear Deal With India

Washington's agreement to resume nuclear energy cooperation with India could affect the balance of power in South Asia, Pakistani officials have warned. There is continuing debate in the country about the implications of the Bush administration's new policy towards India. Read

Friday, March 17, 2006

Commentary: UN's 'Reformed' Human Rights Body - Don't Hold Your Breath

As the dust clears after this week's U.N. vote creating a Human Rights Council, attention will swing quickly to the likely makeup of the new body, whose predecessor was disgraced by the presence and disruptive antics of serial rights violators. Read

Thursday, March 16, 2006

China Looms Large as Allies Launch New Security Dialogue

American, Japanese and Australian foreign ministers are preparing to hold a first meeting of a new trilateral security dialogue, amid debate over where a rapidly rising China fits into the three countries' individual and joint thinking. Read

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

China Rejects Japan's Proposal to Even Out UN Dues

China has rejected a proposal by Japan that would change the way countries fund the United Nations. The issue is one of longstanding sensitivity for Japan, and it has become all the more pressing since Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council stalled. Read

As India's Ties With US Advance, Pakistan Looks to China

Pakistan increasingly is looking to China as a natural strategic ally and energy partner, and some Pakistanis see the move as all the more important given the new emphasis Washington is placing on its ties with India. Read

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Muslim Woman Sparks Debate With 'Apartheid' Remarks

Malaysia is considered one of the most moderate nations in the Muslim world, but the daughter of a former prime minister has sparked a row by comparing discrimination against Muslim women in her country with the treatment of black South Africans under apartheid. Read

China Champions New UN Human Rights Council Model

Calling it the "best possible compromise," the Chinese government is urging the United States to set aside its objections and support a proposal to reform the U.N.'s human rights mechanism. Read

Monday, March 13, 2006

Japan, US Proceed With Military Bases Plan Despite Opposition

Pentagon plans to realign the U.S. military presence abroad faced a new hiccup after residents of a Japanese city voted Sunday in a referendum against a plan to increase the number of American military planes and personnel deployed at a local base. Read

Iran Kills Russian Nuclear Compromise Proposal

As U.N. Security Council members continue deliberating what to do about Iran's nuclear program, Tehran has killed any hopes that it might agree to a deal with Russia that could have resolved the standoff. Read

Friday, March 10, 2006

Can Terrorists be 'Reprogrammed'?

Australia is mulling the possibility of trying to "reprogram" captured terrorists by getting clerics or other influential figures to challenge their interpretations of Islamic teachings. Read

Security Council Divided Over Iran

As expected, splits have quickly emerged in the U.N. Security Council over how to deal with Iran's nuclear activities, now that the world body's atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has formally handed over a report on Iran's activities. Read

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Yemen Editor Faces Death Penalty Over Mohammed Cartoons

Authorities in a number of Muslims countries have acted against newspapers for publishing the controversial Mohammed cartoons, but in Yemen a journalist may soon be fighting for his life after prosecutors demanded his execution. Read

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

US Allies Snipe Over Efforts to Fight Terror

A top U.S. general is on a mission to ease tensions between two key Asian allies, each accusing the other of not acting seriously enough against terrorists. Read

Thai Leader Under Growing Pressure

Thailand's embattled prime minister is facing new difficulties as labor unions have thrown their support behind a growing mass movement agitating for his resignation. Read

Russia Joins U.S. in Pressing Iran to Halt All Enrichment

Iran failed Tuesday to win a last-minute compromise agreement allowing it to enrich small quantities of uranium and edged closer to having its controversial nuclear program taken up by the U.N. Security Council. Read

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Taiwanese Poll Tells China, We'll Decide Our Future

In a striking indication of national feeling, Taiwanese respondents in a new opinion poll have overwhelmingly backed the right of Taiwan's people to have the final say on the island's future, while rejecting what they see as China's military intimidation. Read

With Nuclear Deal Under Its Belt, India Seeks Uranium Supplies

Fresh from signing a historic agreement on civilian nuclear energy cooperation with the United States, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has asked Australia to lift a ban on selling uranium to his country. Read

Monday, March 06, 2006

Dispute Over UN Rights Body Remains Unresolved

One week before the U.N.'s much-criticized Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) begins its final annual session, the U.S. remains opposed to an attempt to push through what it considers to be an inadequate replacement, despite the views of an outspoken former president. Read

Bush Visit Leaves Pakistanis Disappointed, Indians Delighted

Although President Pervez Musharraf put a brave face on it, many Pakistani politicians and commentators voiced disappointment at the outcome of President Bush's visit, judging it as having been far more successful for neighboring India than for Pakistan. Read

Friday, March 03, 2006

US Eyes Lucrative Fighter Plane Deal With India

As the relationship between the United States and India advances in the political, economic and energy fields, so too are military ties strengthening, to such an extent that U.S. firms will go head-to-head with Russians and Europeans to bid for one of the biggest fighter plane deals in more than a decade. Read

Iran in Last-Minute Bid to Avoid Security Council

Iran has launched a two-pronged attempt to forestall moves to take it to the U.N. Security Council over its controversial nuclear program. On Friday, it called for one last meeting with European governments and sought support for its stance from Muslim and developing countries. Read

New Rules Don't Bring More Religious Freedom to China

One year after China implemented new regulations on religion that it said would end discrimination, campaigners continue to report abuses; and some question whether the situation has improved at all for believers. Read

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Gov'ts Urged to Remember Christians in Islamic States

A Christian group has launched a campaign urging governments to protect Christian minorities in Islamic countries, sayng hardships faced by these Christians are not getting attention at a time when the Mohammed cartoon controversy has led to an increasing emphasis on the protection of Islam. Read

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bush Visits India to 'Cement' a Significant Relationship

Following a surprise stop in Afghanistan, President Bush was due in India later Wednesday, a visit that is focusing attention on a relationship that is strengthening considerably despite numerous hurdles. Read

Muslim Dissenters Make Public Stand Against Islamism

Islamism is the new totalitarianism, and the recent uproar over the publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed has revealed the necessity of the struggle for freedom, equal opportunity and secular values. So says British author Salman Rushdie and a group of other writers and intellectuals, including some of the Islamic world's most reviled figures, in a declaration published Wednesday. Read

London Mayor Says He's Targeted for Criticizing Israel

London's maverick mayor, facing possible suspension for comments comparing a Jewish reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard, suggests he's a victim of a campaign by Jews angered by his criticism of Israel. Read