VOA NEWS IN SPECIAL ENGLISH

January 5, 2013

Tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered in the center of Gaza City Friday for celebrations to mark the 48th anniversary of the Fatah organization. The political group was created in 1965 by Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader at the time. Friday was the first time Fatah supporters had gathered in the area in such numbers since the competing Islamic group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Fatah leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to the gathering on television from his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah. He called for Fatah and Hamas to work together to achieve Palestinian national goals.

In Iraq, Sunni Muslims are again demanding an end to poor treatment. There were large Sunni demonstrations Friday in Fallujah, Tikrit, Ramadi and Mosul. Protesters called on the government of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to release Sunni Muslim prisoners. Sunni protesters also gathered in Baghdad Friday, where Shiite clergyman Muqtada al-Sadr met and prayed with Sunnis at the city's Abdul Qadir al-Gailani religious center. The Shiite leader then visited the Our Lady of Salvation Roman Catholic church. That Christian religious center was the target of a deadly attack in 2010.

NATO forces have begun arriving at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where they will operate Patriot missiles that can stop air attacks. The Patriot missiles will be placed along Turkey's border with Syria. They should be in operation by the end of this month. NATO approved the deployment of the surface-to-air missiles early last month after Turkey said it was worried about the possibility that Syria would use chemical weapons against its people.

President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan are meeting with the Ethiopian prime minister. The meeting is taking place in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. The presidents met with the Ethiopian prime minister separately on Friday. The talks are expected to continue into Saturday. They are expected to discuss an effort to establish a non-military area on the border between their two countries. Oil produced in South Sudan cannot flow through Sudan's pipelines until the deal is completed.

The former United States ambassador to the United Nations says the American State Department has no reason to be concerned about his planned trip to North Korea. Bill Richardson told the television program, CBS This Morning, that he and the chairman of the Internet company, Google, will be on a private humanitarian visit to North Korea and will not be representing the United States. Friday, a State Department spokeswoman said this is not the right time for Mr Richardson and the Google chairman to be going to North Korea. She says officials have told the two men directly about their concerns.

Burma celebrated its 65th anniversary of independence from Britain on Friday. Burmese state television showed thousands of members of the military taking part in the independence parade north of Rangoon. The celebration happened on the same day as government airstrikes against rebels in Kachin state.

Cambodia's National Election Committee says exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy cannot run for office or even vote. An election official told reporters Friday that candidates from the new opposition, Cambodia National Rescue Party, would be allowed to run in parliamentary elections. But he said Mr Rainsy could not be a candidate because Cambodian law does not permit people found guilty of a crime to be involved in elections. Mr Rainsy's supporters say the charges against him are political.

The next president of South Korea has met with a representative of Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. President-elect Park Geun-hye met Friday in Seoul with former Japanese Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga. Ms Park said she hopes the two nations will build trust and a close relationship as new governments take office. Relations between the two countries have often been tense because of memories of Japan's occupation of the Korean Peninsula, territorial disputes and other issues.

The new government of Venezuela says President Hugo Chávez is facing new health problems because of a severe lung infection. Opposition leaders have been demanding more information about the president's condition.

And finally at this hour, the Pakistani school girl who was shot by Taliban gunmen has been released from a hospital in Birmingham, England. Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai waved to workers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital as she left on Thursday. The hospital's medical director says the girl has recovered enough that she can now be treated at her family's temporary home in England. She is, however, to have another operation in the coming weeks. Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head in October.