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THE INDEX — May 26, 2009

Leaders of the Taliban insurgency are shifting alliances as clashes between the Pakistani military and rebels intensify according to The National. The alliance between Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, and Pakistani groups strengthened earlier this year, as Omar stepped up attacks on American forces. But with the growing violence in Pakistan and the need for more manpower in Afghanistan, Omar allegedly issued an order for some local leaders to end alliances with Baitullah Mehsud, the strongman behind much of the Pakistan conflict. Fighting continues in Pakistan, where the BBC estimates that the Pakistani government completely controls only 38 percent of the country.

Hezbollah has denied any links to the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri after German magazine Der Spiegel published a controversial article linking the Shiite militant group to his death. The report cites phone records tying 20 Hezbollah officials to the 2005 assassination and details unreleased evidence, which was "cracked" by cyber-detectives with the United Nations tribunal investigating the car bombing. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah denounced the report as “outrageous” and indicative of an “American-Israeli scheme” to create Sunni-Shiite conflict and “provoke a fight between Arabs and Persian Iran.” The German report comes at a critical moment in Lebanese politics, as the nation prepares for highly contested national elections.  A Hezbollah victory would strengthen its opposition to the Western-backed government that currently holds a parliamentary majority. The report prompted Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to call for the arrest for Nasrallah.

North Korea went on the verbal offensive Tuesday in a state newspaper, just a day after conducting its first nuclear test since 2006. The communist government accused the Obama administration of perpetuating a “hostile policy,” and claimed that North Korean forces are “ready for battle,” if necessary. Despite the nuclear show, a full-scale war is exceedingly unlikely—even as some Japanese officials have called for pre-emptive strikes. For its part, the Obama administration officially rebuked the nuclear tests, calling for a joint international response. South Korea joined the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative today, a move that North Korea had previously claimed would signal a “de facto declaration of war.” But given the aggression from Pyongyang—short-range missile tests were reportedly conducted on Tuesday—some are pressing Obama to provide a more fully defined diplomatic strategy.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy activist charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest, said she was at first unaware of the uninvited American citizen who swam to her back door and should not be convicted of violating her house arrest. Suu Kyi faces an additional five years in detention if she's found guilty, said diplomats in Rangoon. Her arrest ignited international protest, but the Burmese foreign ministry insists the trial will remain free from Western influence. Myanmar authorities launched a diplomatic offensive at the United Nations in order to ensure that the country’s authority will not be undermined. Representatives from a number of Asian and European countries will be holding two separate meetings this week to discuss the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's detention.

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