IRAQ: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered Shi'ite militants fighting government forces in the southern city of Basra to surrender their arms within three days or face the consequences. The ultimatum was issued today by Mr. Maliki, who is in Basra to supervise a major military operation against Shi'ite militias that began on Tuesday. Iraqi officials say at least 40 people have been killed and at least 200 others wounded in two days of fierce fighting in the city. Meanwhile, officials say renewed fighting today in Baghdad's Sadr City district has killed at least 14 people and wounded at least 100 others.
CHINA - TIBET: The first group of foreign journalists allowed in Tibet since violent protests broke out against Chinese rule has arrived in the capital, Lhasa. The journalists will be escorted by Chinese officials during the two day trip that began today. Tibetan exile groups say the demonstrations that began on March 10th were peacefully carried out by Buddhist monks marking the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. They say the situation worsened after Chinese police used force in ending the protests. Beijing had banned foreign journalists from traveling to Tibet to verify reports of the protests and security crackdown.
TIBET - WORLD REACT: China has come under pressure at the United Nation's human rights forum over its handling of sometimes violent protests in Tibet. In a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council Tuesday, the European Union urged Beijing to stop using force against Tibetan protesters. The United States, Australia and Canada joined the EU in expressing concern over recent events in Tibet. Also Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his country will not rule out a possible boycott of the Beijing Olympics if China fails to deal responsibly with the recent unrest in Tibet.
TAIWAN - POL: The head of Taiwan's ruling party says he will step down after his overwhelming loss in last Saturday's presidential elections. Democratic Progressive Party chief Frank Hsieh announced his resignation today during a meeting of senior party officials in Taipei. He called his defeat by Nationalist Party candidate Ma Ying-jeou a personal setback. Hsieh lost to Ma by 17 percentage points in Saturday's poll. His loss is the second major electoral setback for the DPP this year. The party lost January's legislative elections to the Nationalists.
KOREA - HUMAN RITGHTS: South Korean media say the country plans to vote in favor of a United Nations resolution criticizing North Korea's human rights record. The resolution will come up for a vote later this week at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. The measure will express concerns about Pyongyang's infringement of "political, economic, social and cultural rights." The resolution also raises the international community's concern about North Korea's abduction of foreigners. The expected vote continues a promise made by South Korea's newly installed conservative President Lee Myung-bak to take a firmer stance with Pyongyang.
PAKISTAN - POLITICS: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte is expected to meet in Islamabad today with Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani. Mr. Gilani, of the Pakistan Peoples Party, took the oath of office Tuesday at the presidential palace. He appealed to Pakistan's political parties to cooperate in dealing with various crises, especially economic problems. President Bush telephoned Mr. Gilani to congratulate him on assuming office and reiterated that Washington views Pakistan as an important ally. The White House says both leaders agreed that fighting extremists is in everyone's interest.
ZIMBABWE - ELECTION: The United States says it is concerned that Saturday's elections in Zimbabwe -- where Robert Mugabe is running for a sixth term as president -- will not be free or fair. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack -- in a statement Tuesday -- cited independent reports which show "inaccurate voter rolls, violence and intimidation of the competing political parties." Several other western nations and the rights group Human Rights Watch have also expressed doubt over the upcoming elections.
NEPAL - BHUTAN REFUGEES: The U.N. refugee agency says more than 100 Bhutanese refugees have left Nepal to be resettled in the United States and other Western nations. The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said Tuesday more than 10-thousand refugees from Bhutan are expected to move to resettlement countries ( -- such as the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway --) by the end of the year.
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