Daily News Brief

April 6, 2009

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

- Obama meets Turkish president, set to address parliament.
- UN Security Council declines to condemn North Korea rocket launch.
- A wave of bombings sweeps Baghdad.
- Zuma graft charges dropped in South Africa.

Top of the Agenda: Obama Turkey Trip

U.S. President Barack Obama met Turkish President Abdullah Gul today in Ankara, opening a two-day tour of the country. Yesterday Obama spoke out in favor of Turkey's rapid integration (FT) into the European Union, saying it would prove an important step toward mending rifts between the West and the Muslim world. The Associated Press reports Iraq could also prove a major point of discussion, as Obama is eager for Ankara to help him wind down U.S. military operations there.

The Turkish news outlet Hurriyet reports major points of focus for Turkey will include how to work together to clamp down on the Kurdish separatist group, PKK, which has launched attacks both in Turkey and Iraq. Turkey may also seek to reinforce intelligence-sharing mechanisms that facilitate efforts by the Turkish military to launch cross-border raids into northern Iraq if they gain wind of PKK activity. The article adds that Obama may press the need to foster economic and political development in Kurdish communities, not just military action.

Background:

- CFR's Steven A. Cook, in a new expert brief, looks at the broadened role Turkey has played recently in Middle East politics, acting as a mediator on several important policy disputes.

- This Backgrounder profiles the PKK.

- Hurriyet's full coverage of Obama's visit is available here.

NORTH KOREA: Rocket Launch Fallout

The UN Security Council failed to agree (LAT) on a joint condemnation of North Korea's rocket launch this weekend, with Russia and China expressing reluctance about antagonizing Pyongyang. U.S. President Obama had urged a joint statement about the launch. Now, the Washington Post reports, Obama appears to be turning his focus to increasing pressure for global nuclear disarmament.

- CFR's Crisis Guide explains the history of tensions on the Korean peninsula.

- See CFR.org later today for spot analysis from CFR's Sheila Smith on the rocket launch and its aftermath.

MIDDLE EAST: Baghdad Bombings

A wave of at least five separate bomb attacks (Aswat al-Iraq) swept over Baghdad today. Al-Jazeera reports at least thirty-two people were killed and as many as 124 more injured in the attacks.

SAUDI: The Arab News reports a new freight rail system linking the north and south of Saudi Arabia will be ready by 2010.

PACIFIC RIM: Chinese Health Care

Beijing unveiled a plan (Xinhua) for reforming China's health care system over the next decade.

THAILAND: The Bangkok Post looks at the politics swirling around recent protests in the Thai capital and notes that some elements of the country's government are planning counterprotests.

SOUTH & CENTRAL ASIA: Pakistan Blast

Dawn reports at least twenty-six people were killed and more than forty injured when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a mosque in the city of Chakwal yesterday, marking the third suicide attack in less than twenty-four hours in the country.

AFGHANISTAN: Quqnoos looks at international response to a recent ruling by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that watchdog groups say could set back women's rights.

AFRICA: Zuma Charges Dropped

A South African court today dropped corruption charges (Mail & Guardian) against Jacob Zuma, the chair of the country's ruling ANC party, potentially ending a long-running political dispute.

PIRATES: The BBC reports pirates off Yemen's coast in the Gulf of Aden seized five vessels since this weekend.

- A recent Backgrounder explains international efforts to combat maritime piracy.

AMERICAS: Colombia Land Rights

The Miami Herald reports Colombia's government has reached a new deal with indigenous populations aimed at building protective "barrier" villages together to protect native lands.

CUBA: The New York Times reports Raul Castro doesn't seem to be attempting to dismantle Cuba's socialist economic network, but rather to make it work more efficiently.

EUROPE: Russia's Stimulus Spending

Ria Novosti reports on Russia's new budget, saying the Kremlin appears set to spend roughly $90 billion to fight the economic crisis, including $42 billion from the federal budget.

ITALY: The Italian government declared a state of emergency this morning as it mobilized relief efforts following a major earthquake that has killed at least fifty people (BBC).

OPINION ROUNDUP

In Monday's roundup: Repercussions from North Korea's rocket test; President Obama in Turkey; and calls for an investigation into Israel's activities in the Gaza Strip.

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