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Northern Sudan Reinforces Military in Southern Kordofan State

New satellite images show a continued build-up of northern Sudanese forces in Southern Kordofan State.

While Southern Kordofan is part of north Sudan, it’s been the scene of border clashes between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the SPLA, which is loyal to south Sudan. Civilians have been caught in the middle of the conflict since it began several weeks ago. The fighting continues, just days before southern Sudan becomes an independent nation.

Study Finds Small Arms Have Serious Impact on Fragile States

A new study finds the global authorized trade in small arms, light weapons, and their ammunition is worth nearly $7.1 billion a year. In its annual report, the independent think tank, the Geneva Forum, also examines the serious impact small arms proliferation is having upon three so-called fragile states-Madagascar, Ivory Coast and Haiti.

Arms exporters

Bells, Ceremonies to Mark Birth of South Sudan

The government of south Sudan has unveiled plans for the ceremonies that will mark the new country's independence on Saturday.

The government is urging its citizens to gather in churches and public squares Friday evening to light candles and say prayers for the new nation.

It says at midnight, bells will be rung across the country, marking the birth of the new nation, to be known as the Republic of South Sudan.

The official independence ceremony takes place Saturday in the capital, Juba. The government says 3,500 people will attend, including 30 African heads of state.

War Crimes Suspect Mladic Removed From Courtroom

Serbian war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic was ordered out of his own arraignment by judges at the Yugoslav war crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The former military commander of the Bosnian Serbs refused to enter pleas to the 11 counts against him, leaving judges to enter not guilty pleas on his behalf, without him present.

Courtroom drama

Chavez Addresses Supporters in Venezuela

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has addressed thousands of cheering supporters from the balcony of his presidential palace in Caracas, hours after returning home from Cuba, where he underwent cancer surgery.

President Chavez discussed his health during the 30-minute speech Monday evening, telling the crowd he will win this "battle for life." The president, who was wearing a green military uniform and red beret, also said he had to submit to "strict" medical treatment.

Philippines Takes Friendly But Firm Stance in China Standoff

Philippines officials say they expect to hold high level talks with China in the coming months to maintain good relations, despite heated debate in recent weeks over disputed territory in the South China Sea.

Cooperation

Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario says his office plans to take up an invitation to visit Beijing in the coming months as an opportunity to reaffirm good ties with China. He says, so far, the country has signed 100 agreements with China related to trade and investment, defense, security and education.

Somali Officials Hoist Flag, Hail Start of New Era

Somalia's government says this year's independence celebration marks the start of a more peaceful time for the war-ravaged country.

Top officials took part in a flag-raising ceremony at the presidential palace in Mogadishu early Friday, marking Somalia's 51 years as an independent state.

Libyan Rebel Strategy Depends on Outside Military Help

The admission by French officials that they have supplied weapons to rebels in western Libya could help explain the opposition's recent territorial gain. The advance has been one of the few breakthroughs in the rebels' fight against the government's professional army.

The rebel leadership has spent four months trying to form a cohesive plan to guide its enthusiastic, but largely amateur fighting force. The results have been mixed.

Venezuelan President Has Surgery for Cancerous Tumor

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he has undergone successful surgery in Cuba for the removal of a cancerous growth.

In a speech on state television late Thursday, Chavez said the operation addressed a tumor with "cancerous cells." He voiced hope that he is on the road to recovery.

It was his first televised address to the Venezuelan people since he underwent emergency surgery in Cuba on June 10. His prolonged stay in Cuba after surgery had sparked rumors he may have cancer.

Authorities have said the operation was for an abscess in his pelvic area.

Pakistan Calls for US to Leave Base Used for Drones

Pakistan's defense minister has called for the United States to leave a remote air base in southwestern Pakistan that he says is used to launch drone strikes against Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar says Pakistan has told the U.S. to leave the Shamsi air base in Baluchistan province, as tensions between the two countries continue following the May 2 raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

U.S. officials say there are no U.S. military personnel at the site, but there are conflicting reports about whether drones or other U.S. personnel are there.

Britain Sends Body Armor to Libyan Rebels

Britain says it is sending body armor, police uniforms and communications equipment to Libyan rebels fighting against forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday his country is supplying 5,000 sets of body armor, 6,650 police uniforms and 5,000 high-visibility vests to police loyal to Libya's opposition Transitional National Council. He said the equipment will allow police to "carry out their functions more securely and better protect" opposition representatives and the international aid communities in rebel-controlled areas.

UN Mission Launches New Military Offensive in DRC

U.N. forces have launched a one-week offensive in North Kivu province. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) is taking action after attacks by rebel groups.

The goal of the offensive is to ensure peace and stability in the area before the general elections in November, said Lieutenant Colonel Felix Basse, military spokesman for MONUSCO.

France Provides Weapons, Food to Libyan Rebels

French military officials say they aided Libyan rebels this month with weapons, munitions and food in their battle against government forces in the western Libyan mountains.

Western news agencies on Wednesday quote unidentified French military officials confirming a Le Figaro newspaper reports of "large amounts" of weapons parachuted into the Jebel Nafusa region.

Rebels on Sunday made gains in the mountains against forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Burma Orders Aung San Suu Kyi's Party to Halt Political Activity

The Burmese political organization led by Aung San Suu Kyi says it has been ordered to halt all political activities.

A spokesman for the National League for Democracy told says the group is considering its response to the order, which came in a letter from the government. The NLD was forced to dissolve as a political party last year when it boycotted national elections because Aung San Suu Kyi - then under house arrest - was not allowed to participate.

Cuban TV Airs Video of Chavez and Castro

Cuban national television has broadcast new photos and video of Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

The footage aired Tuesday and showed the two men walking around and chatting amicably. The TV station said the images were taken the same day and that some of Chavez' relatives also attended the meeting.

President Chavez has not been seen in public since a June 10 operation for what authorities have said was an abscess in his pelvic area. Chavez's voice was last heard publicly June 12, when he called a television network and said he was on the mend.