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8/18/06 World News: ADB Provides Aid Package to Boost Rural Financial Development in Laos


ISRAEL - LEBANON: Lebanese army troops reached the country's southern border today (Friday), taking up positions in towns and villages that were battered during the war between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas. Beirut is deploying 15-thousand troops south of the Litani River as called for by the U.N. Security Council resolution on ending the month-long war. Israeli troops have pulled back from much of southern Lebanon since the U.N.-imposed ceasefire took effect earlier this week. Lebanese forces, along with up to 15-thousand international troops are to patrol the region to bolster the ceasefire.

ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has put on hold plans for a unilateral Israeli pullout from much of the occupied West Bank. Top aides say the pullout plan is no longer Mr. Olmert's top priority because of more pressing concerns after the war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. But they stressed the plan has not been abandoned. The aides say Mr. Olmert wants to first focus on northern Israel's economic recovery after the region was badly damaged by month-long Hezbollah rocket attacks.

CHINA - TRIAL: Three lawyers for a detained Chinese activist due to go on trial today (Friday) say authorities detained them before the trial, and one remains in custody. Chen Guangcheng's attorneys say that Thursday night, police in eastern China's Shandong province accused them of stealing a wallet. Two were released hours later, but one lawyer, Xu Zhiyong, is still being held. Reports from China say other activists who support Chen have also been put under house arrest ahead of today's trial.

LAOS - DEVELOPMENT: The Asian Development Bank has approved a package of loans and grants aimed at boosting financial development in Laos' rural areas. Announced Thursday, the package is worth more than 13-million dollars. The money will be used to encourage the establishment and growth of microfinance institutions. Such institutions provide low-cost loans to low-income entrepreneurs. A. D. B. microfinance specialist Brett Coleman said the increased loan services will help strengthen Laos' rural economy. The Asian Development Bank says a Laotian bank devoted to agricultural development only reaches about 14-percent of the country's households, and only two-percent of rural households. Roughly 80-percent of Laotians live in rural areas, and 90-percent are poverty-stricken.

VIETNAM FLOODS: The death toll in Vietnam from heavy flooding and landslides caused by prolonged rain has risen to at least 19. Officials say the majority of deaths and damage has been reported in the provinces of Binh Thuan, Nghe An, Lam Dong and Dak Lak. Officials say more than five-thousand homes have been destroyed and more than 35-thousand hectares of rice and other crops are submerged in water.

US/CHILD KILLING: U.S. authorities are seeking to extradite an American man arrested in Thailand for the widely publicized 1996 murder of a six-year-old beauty queen. The district attorney in (the southwestern city of) Boulder, Colorado, Mary Lacy, said today (Thursday) there is more work to be done now that suspect John Mark Karr is in custody. He faces charges in the murder, kidnapping and child sexual assault of JonBenet Ramsey.

CUBA - CASTRO: Cuban Defense Minister Raul Castro says his ailing brother, President Fidel Castro, is recovering well from surgery, and that the island nation has taken precautions to prevent aggression against the country. Raul's comments in today's (Friday's) edition of Cuba's official "Granma" newspaper are his first public statements since temporarily assuming presidential powers last month.

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