Top news: On Wednesday, North Korea and its new leader Kim Jong Un followed up on a failed rocket launch in April with the successful launch of a long-range Unha-3 rocket. Japan, South Korea, and the United States have opposed the action, arguing that Pyongyang is testing missile technology to deliver a nuclear warhead.
After the launch, North Korea's KCNA news agency reported that the country's "scientists and technicians brilliantly carried out [Kim Jong Il's] behests to launch a scientific and technological satellite in 2012, the year marking the 100th birth anniversary of President Kim Il Sung."
In response, Japan has called for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council and South Korea has convened an emergency meeting of top government officials. The United States has condemned North Korea's "highly provocative act" while China, North Korea's closest ally, says it "regrets" the launch, in what the New York Times claims is the first time Beijing "has used that word in the context of Pyongyang's rocket program."
Syria: Representatives of more than 100 countries and organizations are participating in a Friends of Syria meeting in Morocco, a day after U.S. President Barack Obama formally recognized the top Syrian opposition group. "We've made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime," he told ABC News.
- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan to discuss future U.S. troop levels in the country.
- Malaysian officials seized 1,000 smuggled elephant tusks in cargo headed from Togo to China.
- An Australian court dismissed a sexual harassment case against former parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper.
- Venezuela's vice president announced that President Hugo Chavez's cancer surgery in Cuba had been completed successfully.
- Uruguay's lower house of Congress passed a law to legalize gay marriage.
- The Cuban government authorized the creation of more than 200 cooperative businesses.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced foreign interference in Russian politics during a state-of-the-nation address.
- The European Parliament approved a common patent system for Europe.
- Pope Benedict XVI sent his first tweet from his new Twitter account.
- Voting on Egypt's constitutional referendum has begun in overseas embassies.
- Israel's foreign minister said the government will withhold tax revenues from the Palestinian Authority until March in retaliation for the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations.
- A Bahraini appeals court shortened the jail sentence of activist Nabeel Rajab from three years to two.
- Mali's interim president appointed Django Sissoko as the country's new prime minister.
- Police and soldiers in Ghana raided an opposition office after a contentious presidential election.
- Election officials in Guinea recommended that long-delayed legislative elections take place on May 12.
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