TIBET PROTESTS: Tibet's Chinese governor says rioters in the capital of Lhasa will face harsh punishment if they do not turn themselves in before a midnight (1600 UTC) deadline. Speaking with reporters today (Monday) in Beijing, Qiangba Puncog insisted that Chinese authorities had not used deadly force against protesters.
He also said that those who surrender and provide information about others involved will receive leniency. Qiangba said that during violent protests against Chinese rule in Lhasa last Friday, rioters either burned or hacked to death 13 innocent civilians. Tibet's government in exile, based in India, has estimated at least 80 Tibetans were killed.
TIBET - REACTS: The International Olympic Committee says several top athletes are considering a boycott of this year's Beijing Olympics as a protest against China's crackdown on activists in Tibet. During a one-day visit to the island of Saint Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean Sunday, IOC President Jacques Rogge said the Olympic Committee is very concerned about the situation as China prepares to host the Olympics in August. Rogge said Saturday a boycott would only penalize athletes. He has declined to say whether the IOC would change its position if the crackdown continues. IOC members and senior government officials in several European countries say that they oppose any boycott of the games.
WORLD ECON: European and Asian stock markets have dropped sharply today (Monday), and the dollar fell, hours after the U.S. Central Bank made moves to avert a credit crisis that threatens to plunge the U.S. economy into recession. Japanese stocks fell nearly four per cent, and Hong Kong shed more than five percent. Major European markets are down more than two percent toward midday. Meanwhile, the dollar fell against the yen and the euro, while oil prices hit a record high of nearly 112 dollars a barrel (in Asia). Late Sunday, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut its lending rate to financial institutions (a quarter point to three-point-two-five percent).
PAKISTAN POL: Pakistan's new National Assembly has met for the first time since President Pervez Musharraf's allies were defeated in last month's parliamentary elections. More than 300 members of the National Assembly took their oath of office today (Monday). President Musharraf faces a fight for his political survival following his opponents' victory in the February 18th elections. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, which won the most seats, plans to form a coalition with the other main opposition group, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, led by another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif.
US - IRAQ: U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who is in Baghdad, says U.S. support for Iraq is unwavering. Cheney made the comment following talks with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The two discussed Iraq's security improvements and other issues. The U.S. vice president arrived unannounced in Baghdad earlier today (Monday). He met first with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus. Shortly after Cheney arrived, an explosion rocked Baghdad, but few details were given about the incident. Cheney's stop in Iraq is part of a Middle East tour that will take him to Oman, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank and Turkey. U.S. senator and expected Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain is also in Iraq on what he says is a fact-finding visit. He also has met with Iraq's prime minister.
US - RUSSIA: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Russia needs to make an effort to reach an agreement about Washington's plans for a European-based missile defense shield. Speaking to reporters on his flight to Moscow, Gates said the U.S. has made a lot of compromises to reassure Russia it is not being targeted by the plan. The defense secretary says it is now time for Moscow to reciprocate. Russia has been skeptical of the plan since it was announced. Gates will be joined in Moscow by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for meetings today (Monday) and Tuesday in an effort to show the missile shield is for protection from what Washington calls rogue nations such as Iran - not to threaten Russian security.
CHINA - BIRD FLU: Chinese state media say authorities have discovered a new bird flu outbreak in the southern province of Guangdong. Agriculture ministry officials quoted by the Xinhua news agency today (Sunday) say the H5N1 virus was identified Thursday at a poultry market in Guangzhou. The officials said the virus killed at least 100 birds and triggered the slaughter of 500 more. Xinhua said the outbreak has been controlled.
Authorities in neighboring Hong Kong say they have suspended imports of live birds and poultry products from the affected zone for 21 days. The World Health Organization says bird flu has killed three people in China this year, and another 232 people around the world since 2003.
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