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Thailand Steps Back from Deportation of 150 Hmong to Laos


THAILAND-LAOS-HMONG: Authorities in Thailand have stepped back from deporting some 150 Lao Hmong refugees after several Western countries (including the United States, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands) agreed to consider their resettlement. A Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman says the Hmong -- 86 of whom are children -- were sent back to an immigration detention center at Nong Khai Tuesday after an earlier tense standoff. Scuffles broke out when Thai police forced women and children on to the buses to be taken to Laos, but some of the men barricaded themselves inside the detention center.

US-IRAQ-IRAN: U.S. media reports say the United States is investigating possible Iranian involvement in a recent attack in the Iraqi city of Karbala, in which five American soldiers were killed. The reports (in the New York Times and CNN television) cited unnamed U.S. government officials as saying the Defense Department is trying to determine whether the January 20th attack on a U.S. military compound was carried out by Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives.

NOKOR-US-TALKS: South Korea's Foreign Minister says his country wants a binding, written agreement to emerge from next week's six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program. Speaking today (Wednesday) in Seoul, Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said the new round, beginning February 8th in Beijing, will aim to produce a document that sets out firm steps toward a nuclear-free North Korea.

JAPAN-BIRD-FLU: Japan's Agriculture Ministry has announced an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of bird flu, the third in Japan since the beginning of this year. The ministry says the outbreak happened at a farm in western Japan's Okayama prefecture. Officials say they are waiting for test results of another possible outbreak of H5N1 in Miyazaki prefecture in southern Japan, the location of earlier outbreaks of the deadly virus.

BURMA-JAPAN-UN: Japan and the United Nations will extend financial support to former poppy farmers in Burma. The Japanese Foreign Ministry announced Monday it will provide financial assistance to former poppy farmers and their families through the U.N.'s Trust Fund for Human Security.

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