Brown wins US praise, starts leadership bid
Gordon Brown, almost certain to become Britain's prime minister next month, got an early boost on Friday when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised continued strong transatlantic ties.
Brown, waiting increasingly fretfully in the wings for the top job, finally got the green light on Thursday, when Tony Blair said he would step down on June 27 after 10 years in power, triggering a leadership contest.
"Britain and America will always be friends, and I know that we will work very, very well with Gordon Brown when he becomes prime minister," Rice told media.
"The bonds with Prime Minister Blair have been forged through some of the most difficult times -- through the time of 9/11, through the time of the attacks on London, through Afghanistan and Iraq and Northern Ireland," she added.
Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) Brown kicked off his campaign for the Labour Party leadership by taking the fight to an opposition Conservative-held constituency.
Brown's major challenge is to revitalise support for Labour which, after a decade in power, is trailing badly in the polls behind a rejuvenated Conservative Party under its young leader David Cameron.
Brown, a 56-year-old Scot, opened his bid in Enfield -- a symbolic gesture aimed at recapturing the excitement of the 1997 landslide election victory that swept Labour into power.
Back then Enfield, in the Conservative heartland, was held by Defence Secretary Michael Portillo, who became one of the most high-profile casualties of the election as Labour won over huge swathes of middle-class voters.
Labour has since lost the seat and Brown's presence there signified his desire and need to regain the support of the English middle class if he is to win the next general election, expected in 2009.
Brown is the only contender at present. No other candidate has yet won the backing of 45 Labour parliamentarians needed to stand for the party leadership.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the two countries will "expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts," Pyongyang's state media reported on Monday. In a letter to Kim for Korea's liberation day, Putin said closer ties would be in both countries' interests, and would help strengthen the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the Northeastern Asian region, North Korea's KCNA news agency said.
The man set to interview Salman Rushdie in New York state moments before the renowned novelist was attacked said Sunday he initially thought someone was playing a cruel joke, but was jolted to reality when he saw blood. "It was very difficult to understand. It looked like a sort of bad prank and it didn't have any sense of reality," Henry Reese, president of non-profit group City of Asylum, told CNN. "Then when there was blood behind him, it became real."
The father of a man charged with attempting to murder novelist Salman Rushdie has locked himself in at his home in southern Lebanon and is refusing to speak to anyone, town mayor Ali Tehfe said on Sunday. The suspect in Friday's attack in New York state has been identified by police as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from New Jersey. Matar is originally Lebanese and his family comes from the south Lebanon town of Yaroun.
Salman Rushdie, the acclaimed author who was hospitalized on Friday with serious injuries after being repeatedly stabbed at a public appearance in New York state, is off a ventilator and his condition is improving, his agent and a son said on Sunday. One of Rushdie's sons said his father remained in critical condition but was able to say a few words after getting off the ventilator.
The Taiwan government on Sunday expressed gratitude to more than 50 countries, including India, that have called on all sides to exercise restraint and avoid unilateral actions to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had called for “exercise of restraint, avoidance of unilateral actions to change status quo [and] de-escalation of tensions”. Bagchi had said India's policies are well-known and consistent, and “do not require reiteration”.