KENYA: Kenya's opposition says today will be the last day of street protests against the disputed reelection of President Mwai Kibaki. Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) spokesman Salim Lone says the opposition will switch to an economic boycott as a result of the violence between police and protesters. Lome says the boycott will target large companies owned by supporters of Mr. Kibaki. At least 10 people have been killed in two days of clashes with police in Nairobi and the western cities of Kisumu and Eldoret.
CIA - BHUTTO: The head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency says al-Qaida-linked militants and allies of a Pakistani tribal leader are responsible for last month's assassination of former Pakistani prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. CIA Director Michael Hayden told "The Washington Post" newspaper that Bhutto was killed by fighters allied with tribal leader Baitullah Mehsud, with support from al-Qaida. Hayden's comments were the most definitive public assessment by a U.S. intelligence official of who was responsible for the Bhutto murder.
THAILAND - POL: Thailand's Supreme Court has dismissed legal challenges to the election victory of a political party that supports deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, clearing the way for it to form a coalition government. The People Power Party (PPP) won the most seats in the December 23rd general election. But it was accused of being a front for Mr. Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) Party, which was dissolved after a September 2006 military coup. A Democratic politician brought the case before the Supreme Court accusing Mr. Thaksin and other leading members of the PPP of defying a five-year ban on politics.
BURMA: The U.N. Security Council says Burma's military government has been too slow in bringing democratic reforms called for during last year's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. Following discussions Thursday with U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari, the Security Council released a statement expressing regret that Burma had not heeded its call for reforms. A council resolution in October called for democratic reforms, full respect for human rights and an end to forced labor and the repression of ethnic minorities.
BURMA - CENSHORSHIP: Burmese government officials have forced a newspaper to skip its weekly publication after it ran a story that was not approved by the country's censorship body. The government's Press Scrutiny Board ordered the Myanmar Times not publish this week for running the story. The article, which quoted the French News Agency, was about an increase in the price of satellite television dishes. Local media report the government asked the Myanmar Times to fire four reporters. However, it remains unclear whether any journalists have been dismissed.
BRITAIN - CHINA: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is urging China to focus on Britain for its foreign investment. Mr. Brown arrived in Beijing, China today, where he held talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. During a joint press conference, Mr. Brown told reporters that he wants Britain to be the first location for Chinese investment in Europe and in the rest of the world. The two leaders say they hoped to increase bilateral trade to 60 billion dollars by 2010 from the estimated 40 billions dollars reached last year.
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israel closed its border with the Gaza Strip today in response to continuing rocket fire by Palestinian militants from the Hamas-controlled territory. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak made the decision to close all crossings into Gaza Thursday, after Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets into Israel. Israel also is continuing its military offensive to stop the rocket fire. Palestinian medical sources say an Israeli air strike in northern Gaza early today killed one militant and wounded at least two others.
IRAQ: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says a plan to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq remains on track, but further withdrawals will depend on the readiness of the Iraqi army. Gates told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that evidence suggests the United States will be able to complete the withdrawal of five combat brigades from Iraq by the end of July. That would leave about 130-thousand U.S. troops in Iraq. At a separate news conference, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq (Lieutenant General Ray Odierno) said improved Iraqi security forces have already bolstered the U.S. mission.
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