TIBET PROTESTS: A top Communist Party official in Tibet says China is engaged in a "life and death struggle" with the Dalai Lama as the Chinese government works to bring unrest in Tibetan communities under control. In comments carried by state-run media today Zhang Qingli calls Tibet's exiled spiritual leader a "wolf in monk's robes," and urges party organizations and groups to "attack the enemy" and uphold social stability. Peaceful protests against Chinese rule in Tibet began early last week and gradually turned violent. China has continually blamed the Dalai Lama for the unrest -- a charge he denies.
TIBET SDBR - OLYMPICS: A Chinese Olympic official says the traditional Olympic torch relay will go through Tibet as planned, despite the recent crackdown by Beijing on protesters in the Himalayan region. Jian Xiaoyu, the executive vice president of the organizing committee, says officials expect the situation in Tibet is stable enough to ensure a successful relay. The torch will be lit on Monday in Athens, Greece -- the ancient home of the Olympic games -- and will be flown to Beijing on March 31st. The flame is scheduled to be taken to the top of Mount Everest in May, then will pass through the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.
WORLD ECONOMY: Asian markets closed sharply higher following the U.S. central bank's decision to cut a key interest rate by three-quarters of a percent, but European markets are less certain the world's largest economy is back on track. Japan's Nikkei index closed up two-and-a-half percent, while Hong Kong is up more than two percent. European markets are lower. London is down about one percent, while Paris and Frankfurt are just slightly lower. Tuesday, U.S. stocks had their biggest one-day gain in five years, while the major stock indexes in London, Frankfurt and Paris closed up around three-and-a-half percent.
BUSH - IRAQ: President Bush will defend his decision to topple Saddam Hussein in a speech marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In speech excerpts released Tuesday by the White House, the president will acknowledge today the U.S. has paid a "high cost in lives and treasure" and that there is a debate over whether the war was worth fighting. But Mr. Bush will say the war has been a success, especially since the deployment of an additional 30-thousand U.S. troops last year to quell sectarian violence. He says the surge has led to "a major strategic victory" where Arabs are turning against the "grim ideology" of Osama bin Laden.
MALAYSIA - POL: Malaysia's new cabinet has been sworn-in, nearly two weeks after the ruling coalition suffered major losses in parliamentary elections. The 69 members of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's government were inaugurated today during a ceremony at the royal palace before King Mizan Zainal Abidin. Mr. Abdullah slashed the 90-member cabinet on Tuesday in a bid to rejuvenate his administration after his ruling National Front coalition lost its two-thirds majority for the first time since 1969. Among those dropped from the cabinet was Home Minister Mohammed Radzi.
INDONESIA - BIRD FLU: The United Nations' food agency says the battle to contain the lethal form of avian flu in Indonesia is failing. Joseph Domenech, the head of the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization, says the East Asian archipelago is facing "an uphill battle" trying to control the H5N1 form of the virus. Domenech says he is concerned that the high levels of infected birds in Indonesia could help the virus mutate into a form that could be passed among humans, triggering a worldwide pandemic that could kill millions. The H5N1 form of avian flu has killed nearly 240 people across Asia since it was first detected in 2003, including 105 in Indonesia.
PAKISTAN - POLITICS: Pakistan's parliament has elected its first female speaker. Fahmida Mirza won the post today, a day after she was nominated by the Pakistan People's Party of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Mirza, a businesswoman and lawmaker from Sindh province, is married to a close friend of Bhutto's widower and now party leader, Asif Ali Zardari. The PPP defeated President Pervez Musharraf's allies in last month's parliamentary elections and plans to form a coalition government with the Pakistan Muslim League-N. PPP leader Zardari has said he has no plans to run for prime minister -- but political analysts and media outlets speculate he will make a bid for the top post in the new government.
UN - BURMA: The United Nations envoy to Burma says he is disappointed that his latest visit to the southeast Asian nation did not produce any tangible results. But envoy Ibrahim Gambari said the visit was still useful to the continued process of engaging Burma's military government. He made the comment Tuesday during a briefing to the U.N. Security Council on his latest visit to Burma. The visit ended early last week without any indication of a breakthrough in Gambari's push to convince Burma's military government to implement political reform.
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