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U.N. chief in Afghanistan; tribal council named

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is saluted by an Afghan demining chief.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, left, and interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai in Kabul on Friday.  

(CNN) -- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived Friday in Afghanistan, where he will meet with officials of the interim government.

Annan will "congratulate the leaders of the interim administration for the job that they have been doing under very difficult circumstances over the past month, with few resources," U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.

Annan is on the second leg of his trip to the region. He started in Pakistan and also will travel to Iran later Friday. In his visit to Afghanistan, he will "express his solidarity for the people of Afghanistan in their time of need see for himself the hardships that they have suffered," Fawzi said. (Full story)

Meanwhile, a 21-person commission -- the first step in deciding the shape of a future government for Afghanistan -- has been formed, Hamid Karzai, the country's interim leader announced Friday.

The commission will organize the convening of a Loya Jirga, a traditional Afghan tribal council, that will meet to determine the future of the war-ravaged country's political structure.

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John Walker Lindh's parents, Frank Lindh and Marilyn Walker, and attorney James Brosnahan speak to reporters outside a federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia. (January 24)

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Latest developments

• U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell welcomed Abdullah Abdullah, the foreign minister of the Afghan interim government, to Washington on Friday for the first time since the interim government took power in Kabul.

• Authorities said Friday they have forensic evidence that proves alleged would-be airplane shoe bomber Richard Reid did not act alone in making the bombs found in his sneakers. U.S. government sources and intelligence sources overseas told CNN's Susan Candiotti that palm prints and hair samples not belonging to Reid were discovered in the bombs hidden in his shoes. (Full story)

• A firefight between al Qaeda and Taliban fighters and U.S. coalition and friendly Afghan troops in a mountainous region in southern Afghanistan left one U.S. Special Forces soldier wounded and 15 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters dead. (Full story)

• The U.S. government moved forward in its case against John Walker Lindh, the 20-year-old Californian accused of joining al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and conspiring to kill Americans. Walker Lindh appeared Thursday morning in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, and heard the charges against him. (Full story)

• Indonesian authorities on Friday will continue questioning a Muslim cleric whom regional governments have accused of being linked to terrorist networks and possibly al Qaeda. The cleric, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, denies being a member of al Qaeda but has praised "the struggle of Osama bin Laden." (Full story)

• Pentagon officials said Thursday that U.S. warplanes have bombed the wreckage of a Marine Corps CH-53 helicopter that crashed last weekend south of Bagram air base in northern Afghanistan. Officials said the U.S. military wanted the wreckage destroyed to keep opposition forces from ransacking it. Two Marines were killed and five others injured Sunday when the helicopter went down, apparently due to mechanical problems.

• President Bush on Thursday proposed a major boost in spending for homeland security -- $37.7 billion in the next fiscal year. This increase of $18.2 billion over current levels promises significant federal resources to local fire, police and rescue department and personnel. (Full story)

• The Bush administration has released more than $200 million of Afghan assets that had been frozen during the Taliban regime, a move to help the new government in Afghanistan, senior administration officials said Thursday. The funds were blocked under a 1999 executive order that ordered the freezing of all assets associated with the Taliban.

• Flight attendants at some regional airlines say they need more training and time to conduct pre-takeoff searches of aircraft, as required by new government regulations. More than a dozen of them flew to Washington's Reagan National Airport on Thursday to call attention to what they say could be a deadly lapse in security. (Full story)

• A U.S. Navy chaplain who is also a Muslim cleric announced the first morning call to prayer Thursday for the 158 Taliban and al Qaeda detainees at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The chaplain, who was sent to advise senior commanders on Islamic issues, will be available to meet with detainees. (Full story)

• Lawyers for David Hicks, a 26-year-old Australian held at Guantanamo as a suspected member of al Qaeda, are writing to President Bush seeking his release.

• About 20 U.S. legislators will visit the Guantanamo Bay detention center Friday in search of useful intelligence gleaned from the prisoners of the Afghan war, pointedly ignoring the storm of protest over their treatment. "This has nothing to do whatsoever with treatment of prisoners ... I'm not interested in any of that," Rep. Porter Goss, the Republican from Florida who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, told The Associated Press.

• More sets of remains from Ground Zero have been identified, bringing the number of confirmed dead Thursday to 685. The estimate of the total number of dead from the September 11 World Trade Center attacks, however, was reduced to 2,876. The New York Office of Emergency Management said the number of people for whom death certificates have been issued without identification of remains is 1,928, while the number listed as missing with no death certificates issued is 263.




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