CHINA - TIBET: A group of Tibetan monks has disrupted a tour by foreign journalists of Tibet's capital, Lhasa -- the scene of recent protests against Chinese rule. The journalists, escorted by Chinese authorities, were visiting the Jokang Temple today when 30 monks approached them and told them there was no freedom in Tibet. A reporter for the Associated Press says the monks told the journalists the Dalai Lama, their exiled spiritual leader, had nothing to do with the anti-government riots in Lhasa nearly two weeks ago. The reporter says Chinese government handlers tried to pull the journalists away during the brief encounter.
US - CHINA: President Bush has called Chinese President Hu Jintao to express his concern about the situation in Tibet. A White House statement says Mr. Bush encouraged the Chinese government to engage in talks with the Dalai Lama. It says the U.S. leader encouraged Mr. Hu's government to allow journalists and diplomats access to Tibet. The White House says the leaders also discussed the recent presidential election in Taiwan, the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program and an upcoming constitutional referendum in Burma.
SOKOR - NOKOR: South Korea's government says North Korea has expelled most of the South Korean managers working in a joint factory park just north of the border between the two countries. A spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry said today the expulsions came in response to recent comments from a South Korean minister linking expansion of the complex to efforts to end North Korea's nuclear program. The spokesman said the South Korean government has pulled 11 of its 13 officials from the Kaesong complex's joint office after Pyongyang demanded the withdrawal.
THAILAND - IMAM: The rights group Human Rights Watch says the death of a Muslim cleric in Thai military custody last week highlights the widespread mistreatment of Muslims at the hands of Thailand's authorities. The New york-based group said Wednesday that soldiers had detained Imam Yapa Koseng and family members on March 19th in (Ban Kortor village, Narathiwat) southern Thailand on charges of alleged involvement in bomb attacks. He died following an interrogation. The group quotes family members as saying Koseng's body showed signs of torture, including bruises, burns and broken ribs.
BURMA - DEMOCRACY: Burma's military leader has pledged that power will be transferred to a civilian government after nationwide elections are held in 2010. Senior General Than Shwe made the comments today during ceremonies marking the nation's Armed Forces Day holiday. This year's holiday falls on the six-month anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators that was condemned by the international community. General Than Shwe insisted his military government had no cravings for power, and that it sincerely wants to develop the country.
INDONESIA - SUHARTO:
An Indonesian court says the late ex-President Suharto did not siphon off government funds through an educational charity he once chaired -- but ordered the charity to repay the government 110 million dollars. Today's judgment was a response to a one-billion dollar civil lawsuit filed by the government against Mr. Suharto and the Supersemar Foundation, which was created to provide scholarships. The court ruled Mr. Suharto could not be held liable because the decisions were made by the foundation's board.
PAKISTAN - BHUTTO: Pakistani officials say authorities have again detained an alleged al-Qaida militant accused of involvement in a bomb attack at a rally for slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Jail official Nusrat Mangal said Qari Saifullah Akhtar was detained today. On Wednesday, a court in Karachi ordered prison officials to release Akhtar for lack of evidence. But the court also ruled that he must make himself available for further questioning if sufficient evidence is found. Ms. Bhutto accused Akhtar of plotting the double suicide bombing at her homecoming parade in Karachi last October that killed about 140 people.
IRAQ: Iraqi officials say a bomb struck an oil pipeline today in the southern city of Basra, where Iraqi forces are battling Shi'ite militias for a third day. Officials did not say who was responsible for the pipeline attack. It is also unclear whether the damaged pipeline will greatly affect crude exports. Meanwhile, witnesses in Basra reported more heavy fighting in the city today. Officials say at least 40 people have been killed since Iraqi forces began an operation against Shi'ite militias on Tuesday.
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