Witnesses in Burma say soldiers in Rangoon have fired into crowds of pro-democracy protesters who defied a government ban on demonstrations. Several people were wounded in the unrest today (Wednesday). Witnesses reported fatalities, but there has been no independent confirmation of this. They say soldiers and riot police also used tear gas and batons to break up a gathering of Buddhist monks and activists today (Wednesday) at the revered Shwedagon and Sule pagodas. At least 100 activists, including some monks, were detained. Witnesses say an estimated 10-thousand people defied the security forces, and marched through Rangoon to protest 45 years of oppressive military rule.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is calling for an urgent United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the crisis in Burma. Mr. Brown said the Security Council should meet today (Wednesday) to debate what can be done about the Burmese military government's violent crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protesters. He said a U.N. envoy should also be sent to Burma.
THAILAND-POL: Thailand's interior minister says he will resign Monday because of a conflict of interest. Aree Wongsearaya acknowledged today (Wednesday) that his ministry had purchased goods from a company in which he owns shares. He denied wrongdoing, saying his subordinates had done the business transaction without his consent. But he said he would resign to take responsibility for the deal. An anti-corruption commission found Aree guilty last week of holding more than five percent stock in the company, which is prohibited for cabinet officials.
Yasuo Fukuda of Japan's ruling party has been sworn in as prime minister. Mr. Fukuda and his Cabinet ministers were formally sworn in today (Wednesday) at the Imperial Palace. The 71-year-old Liberal Democratic Party veteran replaces former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who stepped down earlier this month. Mr. Abe said he resigned largely because of his poor health. But he also had struggled to maintain credibility after his government admitted mishandling the pension system and his Cabinet was hit by a series of corruption scandals.
UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will be among the world leaders scheduled to speak today (Wednesday) at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. During Tuesday's sessions, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used his address to defend his country's nuclear program and launch a broad assault on the United States. Without mentioning the U.S. by name, President Ahmadinejad said human rights are being violated extensively by certain powers, especially those that pretend to be their exclusive advocates. The Iranian leader also criticized the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which he said occurred under the pretext of overthrowing a dictator and the existence of weapons of mass destruction.
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