BBC news 2011-07-31
BBC News with Iain Purdon
With a deadline for resolving the United States debt crisis just three days away, there's intense debate in the Senate over a Democrat-backed plan to raise the nation's borrowing limit. The Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the proposal was, in his words, "the only game in town", and there will be a vote by midnight. From Washington, Paul Adams.
An acrimonious standoff continues between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Democratic-controlled Senate with competing bills being passed or blocked. The room for compromise on raising the debt ceiling and cutting government spending clearly exists, but it'll require some deft congressional diplomacy and almost certainly the involvement of the White House to make sure it happens. But Washington is bracing itself for the possibility that it won't. The Treasury has been drawing up its emergency plans, working out what bills to stop paying and when. The fact that American soldiers in Afghanistan have started to ask their leaders whether they'll continue to be paid, which they will, is perhaps a measure of just how the sense of anxiety is spreading.
A top American adviser on Iraq has accused the US military of glossing over an upsurge in violence just months before its troops are due to be withdrawn. The US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart W Bowen Jr, said the killing of US soldiers and senior Iraqi figures as well as attacks in Baghdad had all risen, making Iraq more dangerous than it was a year ago. A BBC correspondent in the region says the report is in contrast to the usually upbeat assessments from the military.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced his country will go ahead with a plan to buy 36 F-16 fighter jets from the United States. Sebastian Usher reports.
Iraq has blown hot and cold over a possible multibillion-dollar deal to buy F-16s from the US. The aim ostensibly is to protect Iraqi airspace and revive its enfeebled air force. Iraq put the original deal on hold in order to use the funds to buy basic food stuffs instead, but Iraq's coffers have apparently been boosted by soaring oil prices since then. With US troops due to withdraw shortly, Mr Maliki has now revived the F-16 deal as part of Iraq's efforts to show it's moving towards military self-sufficiency.
Afghan intelligence officials say they've arrested an army officer who's suspected of working for the Taliban. He's accused of helping plan future suicide bombings in Kabul. Here's Jill McGivering.
Afghan intelligence sources named the army officer as Gul Mohammed but didn't reveal his rank. They say he was in contact with Taliban commanders, making arrangements for them to bring fighters into Kabul and to plan future attacks, including suicide bombings, on government targets there. One report suggests he was in charge of several road checkpoints around the capital, which were a key part of security defences. Officials say he was promised money by the Taliban in return for his help.
World News from the BBC
The Turkish President Abdullah Gul has denied that there's any crisis in the country following the resignation of its four most senior commanders on Friday. He said one had considered resigning for a while and the other generals retired on the basis of age. There were reports that they'd stood down in protest at the trial of military officers.
A United Nations report says there's increased instability and substance abuse in East Africa as a result of drug trafficking. It says the region is now a major transit route. With the details, here's Nkem Ifejika.
The United Nations says it's concerned that East Africa be in use as a drugs trafficking route because the region doesn't have the resources to fight trafficking or addiction. As detection and enforcement have improved in West Africa, gangs there have changed tactics and are now going via the east to transport drugs, such as heroin, from Afghanistan to Europe. The UN report says this is most likely because of corruption, poverty and limited law enforcement capacity in the region.
Judicial authorities in China have apologised for a warning that was given to lawyers about representing victims of last Saturday's train crash. Law firms were told that the case was highly sensitive and they must report immediately if contacted by injured passengers or families of the 40 known to have died. The judicial authorities in the eastern city of Wenzhou issued their apology after the statement was revealed on Internet chat sites.
The qualifying draw for the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil is underway at a star-studded ceremony in Rio de Janeiro. It's the start of a battle to be among the 32 teams who will contest the final stages of the tournament. The 2010 winners Spain have been drawn in a group that includes France. Opening the event, the Fifa president Sepp Blatter said he was confident that Brazil would host a successful World Cup.