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Bush Urges China to Respect Human Rights


BUSH - ASIA: U.S. President George Bush is on his way to Beijing to attend Friday's opening ceremonies of 2008 Olympic Games, hours after he bluntly criticized China's human rights record. Earlier today, in a speech in the Thai capital, Bangkok, Mr. Bush urged China to observe and respect basic human rights. He praised America's economic and diplomatic alliance with Beijing, but asserted the U.S. "stands in firm opposition" to China's detention of political, human rights and religious activists. Mr. Bush urged China to trust its people with greater freedom, adding that that is the only way for China to develop to its full potential.

BUSH - ASIA SDBR: LAURA: The wife of U.S. President George Bush traveled to the Thai-Burmese border today to tour the largest Burmese refugee camp in the area. Laura Bush and her daughter, Barbara, visited the Mae La refugee camp, near the town of Mae Sot in western Thailand's Tak province. About 38-thousand Burmese live at the camp. Most of them are ethnic Karen who fled violence in their home country. Some have been living there for 20 years, waiting either to return to Burma, or to be resettled in a third country, including the United States.

PAKISTAN - VIOLENCE: Pakistani officials say government forces have killed at least 25 pro-Taliban militants in fighting near the border with Afghanistan. The officials, speaking today on the condition of anonymity, say the fierce fighting broke out late Wednesday in the Bajaur tribal region. They say hundreds of militants armed with assault rifles and rocket-launchers attacked government forces at a security checkpoint, killing two soldiers. The Bajaur tribal region is a known haven for Taliban and al-Qaida militants, and officials suspect they use the area as a base for attacks in neighboring Afghanistan.

PAKISTAN - POLITICS: Pakistan's foreign ministry says embattled President Pervez Musharraf will not go to China for the opening of the Olympic Games, as the country's ruling coaltion considers his possible impeachment. A ministry spokesman said today Pakistan will now be represented in Beijing by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. This is the second time the country's foreign ministry has announced President Musharraf would be staying home. Pakistan's ruling coalition just concluded two days of talks on the president's future, and a spokesman says officials will soon announce what he described as "good news."

CHINA - OLYMPICS: Thousands of people cheered as the torch of the 2008 Olympics was carried across Beijing's famous Great Wall today on the eve of the Games' opening ceremonies. The torch run began with an elaborate ceremony at the Great Wall's Badaling section, complete with live percussionists accompanying patriotic music blaring from speakers. A total of 18 torchbearers carried the Olympic torch along a 900-meter section of the ancient landmark. The torch arrived in Beijing Wednesday, the final stop of its long and controversial international relay.

MALAYSIA - ANWAR: Malaysian prosecutors have formally charged opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim with sodomy, an allegation that could upset his political comeback if he is convicted. During an appearance today in a Kuala Lumpur court, he called the charge "a malicious allegation." He pleaded not guilty to the charge of having sexual relations with a former male aide in June and vowed to fight hard against the case. Anwar has accused Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of personally orchestrating the case to destroy his political career.

MAURITANIA - COUP: Leaders of a military coup in Mauritania have pledged to hold presidential elections as soon as possible. The junta made the promise in a statement read on national radio and television today. The generals did not give a date for the elections, but said they will be "free and transparent." During the bloodless takeover Wednesday, soldiers detained the North African nation's first freely-elected president, Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghef. The United States condemned the coup. In a statement Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Mauritania's military to release the president and prime minister and to restore immediately what she called the "legitimate, constitutional, democratically-elected" government.

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