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Iraq's Maliki Pushes for Arab Support for Baghdad


IRAQ - MIDEAST: Iraq's Prime Minister is urging Arab nations to increase support for his country by providing debt relief, reopening embassies in Baghdad and stopping militants from entering Iraq. Nouri al-Maliki delivered his plea in remarks today at a conference of regional and world powers meeting in Kuwait. He complained that Iraq's neighbors have been reluctant to increase diplomatic ties despite improved security in his country. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait have pledged to send ambassadors to Baghdad but have not yet done so.

US POL: Polls have opened in the (eastern) U.S. state of Pennsylvania in a critical Democratic Party presidential primary election -- the biggest remaining contest in a tight race. Senator Hillary Clinton, who is favored to win in the state, needs a wide margin of victory to boost her chances of catching her rival, Senator Barack Obama. Obama is seeking to solidify his status as frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, while Clinton would face mounting pressure to drop out of the increasingly nasty race if she does not do as well as expected in Pennsylvania.

CHINA - RIOT: Chinese state-media are reporting that at least one person is dead and 11 others injured following a clash between villagers and police in southwest China. Xinhua news agency says dozens of villagers in (Saxi in Malipo County) Yunnan province attacked police Sunday with knives and clubs in a clash over what it said was an illegal mining dispute. Ming Pao, a Chinese-language newspaper in Hong Kong, says that police first fired warning shots and then shot and killed two protesters during the scuffle.

OLYMPIC TORCH: The Indonesian leg of the Olympic torch relay was held today behind closed doors at Jakarta's national stadium. Five thousand cheering, invited guests witnessed the relay, with 80 people from all walks of life carrying the torch around the sports complex. Earlier, Indonesian police detained at least eight people, including a Dutch man, at a pro-Tibet demonstration outside the stadium. A chartered plane carrying the flame arrived in Jakarta early today from Malaysia. Local organizers had originally planned for runners to carry the torch through the city's streets.

CHINA - TIBET: Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, says Tibetans need U.S. help in resolving their conflict with the Chinese government. The Dalai Lama discussed the situation Monday with a top U.S. official for Tibetan affairs, Paula Dobriansky, at a meeting in (the midwestern U.S. city of) Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dobriansky (the U.S. special coordinator for Tibetan issues and under secretary of state for democracy and global affairs) said President Bush has been a steadfast supporter of the need for a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese leaders.

NOKOR NUCLEAR: A U.S. delegation crossed the heavily-guarded border from South Korea into North Korea today for talks on Pyongyang's overdue declaration of its nuclear activities. The team, led by Sung Kim -- the top U.S. State Department expert on the Koreas -- will stay in North Korea for three days to discuss the North's nuclear declaration and how to verify it. Six-country talks on ending the North's nuclear activities have been stalled for months, after Pyongyang missed a December 31st deadline to give a declaration of its nuclear programs in return for diplomatic concessions and energy aid.

SOKOR - SAMSUNG: The chairman of South Korea's massive global conglomerate, the Samsung Group, has announced his resignation from the firm, following a high-profile corruption probe. Speaking on live nationwide television today, Lee Kun-hee announced his decision, offering what he said was his deepest apologies to the public. Last week, South Korean prosecutors charged Lee with evading more than 100 million dollars in taxes and breach of trust. Prosecutors said the tax money was stashed away in disguised accounts. Samsung group said today that it would transfer some four and a half billion dollars from those accounts back into Lee's name to pay back taxes and use the funds for "good purposes."

BURMA - BLASTS: Burma's military government says a member of an exiled militant student group was involved in Sunday's bombings in the former capital, Rangoon. Burmese state media today say a member of the Vigorous Burma Student Warriors was filmed carrying explosives Sunday in the area of the blasts. The New Light of Myanmar newspaper printed photographs from a security camera that allegedly show the suspect behind the Traders Hotel, the scene of one of the explosions. Another blast took place earlier in nearby downtown Rangoon.

THAILAND - BURMA: Police in Thailand say a sixth person suspected of involvement in the deaths of 54 Burmese migrant workers has surrendered. Police made the announcement Monday following a search for members of a smuggling ring who arranged the migrants' journey from Burma's border (with the Thai province Ranong) to the Thai resort town Phuket. The "Bangkok Post" says police are still searching for a man suspected of bringing the migrants into the country from Burma.

THAILAND - MALAYSIA: Thailand says the issue of a separatist insurgency in southern provinces bordering Malaysia will top the agenda during this week's bi-lateral talks with its neighbor. A Thai government spokesman Monday said Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej will ask Malaysia to extradite two suspected separatists. The spokesman said Mr. Samak's discussions with his Malaysian counterpart, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, will also touch on a joint gas pipeline project. Mr. Samak will begin his two-day visit on Wednesday.

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