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Musharraf: Pakistan to Hold Elections by Mid-February


PAKISTAN: Pakistan's official media are reporting that national elections will be held before mid-February. The reports say President Pervez Musharraf made the announcement after a meeting of the National Security Council today. The United States and Pakistani opposition parties have been pressing General Musharraf to end the emergency he declared on Saturday, quit his army post and hold elections that had been set for January. Earlier, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party said hundreds of party activists have been detained after Ms. Bhutto called for street protests against General Musharraf's declaration of emergency rule.

PAKISTAN - VIOLENCE: Pakistani security officials say they have found the bullet-riddled bodies of three soldiers abducted earlier this week in the tribal North Waziristan region near the Afghan border. Officials say the men were among four Frontier Corps troops kidnapped Tuesday by suspected Islamic militants as they were on their way to duty near the region's main town, Miran Shah. The fate of the fourth soldier is not known. Remnants of Afghanistan's Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists are believed to be hiding in Pakistan's North and South Waziristan regions.

BURMA: United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari has met with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon before wrapping up a six-day visit to Burma. Gambari met today with the Nobel laureate at a state guest house for about one hour before she was returned to her home, where she has spent most of the past 18 years under house arrest. The U.N. envoy's visit, which began last Saturday, is his second trip to Burma since a violent September crackdown on pro-democracy protesters killed at least 10 and led to the detention of nearly three thousand.

NOKOR - NUCLEAR: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her South Korean counterpart say U.S. nuclear experts are making good progress in disabling North Korea's nuclear facilities. When asked Wednesday about the pace of disablement and North Korean cooperation, Rice responded, "So far, so good." After meeting with Rice in Washington, South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-Soon said they agreed that disablement is going in the right direction and at the right pace. A team of U.S. experts began disabling facilities at the North's Yongbyon nuclear complex on Monday.

IRAN - NUCLEAR: China has urged Iran to heed rising international concerns about its nuclear ambitions. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman (Liu Jianchao) today said Beijing hopes all relevant parties can peacefully settle the issue through "dialogue and consultation." China, along with Russia, has been reluctant to take a tougher stance against Iran for defying a United Nations demand to halt its sensitive nuclear activities. However, all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany agreed last week to discuss a third set of sanctions against Iran, pending a report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency on the Iranian nuclear issue.

WORLD ECON: Stocks across Asia plunged in trading today as sharp falls on Wall Street, worries about high oil prices, and concerns about the U.S. economy shook investors. Tokyo's Nikkei index slipped two percent, while share prices in Taipei (three-point-nine percent), Sydney (two-point-six percent) and Seoul (three-point-one percent) also closed sharply lower. Crude oil prices have eased back from new highs, but still flirted near the 100-dollar mark Wednesday, adding concern to the U. S. economy -- which has been beset this year by plunging home prices and the declining dollar.

CHINA - INVESTMENT: China has issued new rules to restrict or limit foreign investment in key industries such as real estate, financials and oil, in order to cool its overheated economy. The regulations were made public today by China's National Development and Reform Commission. It says the rules also are aimed at helping to clean up the environment. These new rules welcome foreign investment in areas that can help China protect its environment, cut pollution and develop renewable energy. But they restrict outside investment in energy-intensive high pollution projects.

US - CHINA - YAHOO: The relatives of Chinese dissidents imprisoned after Internet search engine Yahoo provided the government with their personal information have welcomed the company's apology, but they say it has come too late. Journalist Shi Tao and online writer Wang Xiaoning were both sentenced to 10 years in prison. Shi Tao's mother, Gao Qinsheng, and Wang's wife, Yu Ling, were at a U.S. congressional hearing Tuesday when Yahoo made an apology. They told VOA Wednesday that Yahoo needs to work for the release of their relatives and other political prisoners.

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