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British PM Blair Announces Resignation Date


BRITAIN - BLAIR: British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he will tender his resignation on June 27th, after 10 years as leader of Britain's Labor Party and prime minister. He announced the date in a televised speech today to his constituency in Sedgefield, northeastern England. Mr. Blair told his senior ministers of his intentions earlier in the day. His likely successor, finance minister Gordon Brown, praised what he called Mr. Blair's unique leadership.

US - IRAQ: President Bush is due to hold a closed-door briefing with senior military officials at the Pentagon today concerning the situation in Iraq. The meeting takes place as the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives plans to vote on a bill to fund the war. The bill would initially provide nearly 43-billion dollars for military operations in Iraq through July. Mr. Bush would then have to prove that Iraq was making political or military progress before Congress releases another 53-billion dollars. However, the bill is believed to have no chance of being approved by the Senate, where the Democratic Party majority is slim.

EAST TIMOR - ELECTIONS: East Timorese officials say Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta has a commanding lead in the country's presidential election with the vote count nearing an end. East Timor's election commission said today Mr. Ramos-Horta has 73 percent of the vote from Wednesday's run-off election with 90-percent of the ballots counted. Rival candidate Francisco "Lu Olo" Guterres has about 27-percent.

VIETNAM - DISSIDENTS: A Vietnamese court has sentenced three pro-democracy activists to prison after convicting them of spreading propaganda against the Communist government. The court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced the dissidents today after a one-day trial. They were accused of collaborating with a Vietnamese-American activist (Cong Thanh Do) who was expelled from Vietnam last September. The court sentenced Le Nguyen Sang, a doctor, to five years, Nguyen Bac Truyen to four years, and Huynh Nguyen Dao to three years.

NORTH KOREA - NUCLEAR: Japan and South Korea are calling on North Korea to start dismantling its nuclear weapons program as it promised in a six-party agreement in February. Senior Japanese and South Korean diplomats issued the joint call after meeting today in Tokyo. They also agreed to work closely to resolve the North Korean nuclear dispute. North Korea missed an April deadline to close its Yongbyon nuclear reactor under the terms of the six-party agreement.

CHINA - DARFUR: China has appointed a special representative on African affairs to focus on resolving the crisis in Sudan's troubled Darfur region. Beijing's new Africa envoy is Liu Guijin, a seasoned diplomat who has served as China's ambassador to South Africa and Zimbabwe. China's government announced his appointment today after months of international criticism of its approach to Sudan. On Wednesday, a group of 108 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao demanding that Beijing do more to persuade Khartoum to stop the violence in Darfur.

WORLD BANK - WOLFOWITZ: The World Bank's executive board has given embattled bank president Paul Wolfowitz until Friday to present his defense to an ethics inquiry. On Wednesday, the 24-member board said Wolfowitz could have two more days to answer allegations that he broke bank rules by arranging a pay increase and promotion for his girlfriend (Shaha Riza), a bank employee.

ROMANIA - CORRUPTION: The Romanian Senate has unanimously passed a tough new anti-corruption law. The bill approved Wednesday sets up what is being called the National Integrity Agency. The agency will investigate politicians and civil servants if their wealth exceeds a normal government employee salary. Prosecutors would be able to confiscate part of the assets or suspend politicians from public service for three years if they cannot account for the riches.

SOMALIA: Witnesses in Somalia's capital say a landmine explosion has killed at least two civilians. The blast went off in southern Mogadishu today as a government convoy drove by. Somalia's interim government is trying to strengthen its hold on the capital after several weeks of deadly battles against Islamist insurgents. The city has been relatively quiet since the government declared victory in late April.

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