Iraq troops might stay on
Japan's defense chief signalled yesterday that the country's troops could extend their humanitarian mission to Iraq beyond an initial Dec. 14 deadline, possibly for another year. Yoshinori Ohno comments on NHK public television came amid a raging debate over whether Japan should withdraw its troops from Samawa in southern Iraq. Newspaper polls have shown that more than half the electorate opposes an extension. "Reconstruction is still under way, so we must continue the support," NHK quoted Ohno as saying. "As for making an exit, recon-struction in Iraq must be to some extent complete," Ohno said.
Russian visa for Dalai Lama
A spokesman for the Tibetan exile government in India said that Russia has issued the Dalai Lama a visa to visit Buddhists in its Kalmykia region and that he could make the trip as early today. However, a duty officer at the Russian Foreign Ministry did not confirm a visa was issued and said he did not know whether Moscow had agreed to a visit. The spokesman at the Tibetan spiritual leader's headquarters suggested it was still possible the visit would not take place. "We are trying to see if it is possible for the Dalai Lama to leave on Monday [today]," Tenzin Takla, information officer at the headquarters in the northern Indian town of Dharmsala, said in New Delhi. "He will spend a day or two in Kalmykia if he decides to go ahead with the visit," Takla said.
Mass rally against US
About 10,000 Indonesians demonstrated in Jakarta yesterday against the US-led offensive in Fallujah, in one of the biggest anti-Iraq war protests in the world's most populous Muslim nation. The demonstrators chanted, "Keep the spirit of jihad alive! We will fight back!" and carried banners reading, "How many more Muslims will die because of President George Bush?" Young men pasted stickers of Bush portrayed as a monkey and as Adolf Hitler on passing cars and buses in front of the US Embassy. Opinion polls have shown that many Indonesians have turned against the US because they see the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as anti-Muslim.
SARS-vaccine tests go well
Thirty-six Chinese volunteers participating in the world's first SARS human-vaccine tests are "in good condition," the official Xinhua News Agency said yesterday. The volunteers were injected between May and August as part of China's aggressive research aimed at preventing a new outbreak of SARS, which first emerged in 2002 in the southern province of Guangdong. The antibodies in the volunteers' blood have increased during the tests, but it is too soon to tell if the vaccine is effective, Xinhua said, citing Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a SARS expert. He said results of the tests will be released in January.
Cocktail against HIV
India, home to the world's second-largest HIV population, may have found a perfect cocktail for safe sex -- a free condom with every bottle of alcohol sold at liquor shops. The southern state of Andhra Pradesh has made it mandatory for liquor shops to hand out a free condom with every bottle of alcohol they sell from Dec. 1, the World AIDS Day. The state government would supply the condoms free to shops and distribution would be monitored. India has the second biggest HIV population after South Africa, with 5.1 million cases.