BURMA: The World Bank says it will not provide aid or loans to Burma in the wake of a deadly cyclone. The bank said today that new loans are impossible because the military government has made no payments on outstanding debts since 1998, and has failed to enact economic and other reforms. Next week the United Nations and ASEAN will host a joint conference in Rangoon to seek international support and financial aid for those affected by Cyclone Nargis. The meeting also will focus on longer-term recovery efforts. Burmese officials say losses from the storm could be up to 10 billion dollars.
CHINA - QUAKE: Chinese officials say the death toll from last week's powerful earthquake has risen to more than 40-thousand, with most of the deaths occurring in Sichuan province. Sichuan was at the center of the seven-point-nine magnitude quake. China has said the death toll could reach more than 50-thousand. The death toll update comes as China was struggling to find shelter for nearly five million people who have been made homeless by the disaster. Thousands living in quake-ravaged Sichuan are sleeping outside, fearing more strong aftershocks. The National Seismology Bureau has warned of a heightened possibility of an aftershock with a magnitude of between six and seven.
TAIWAN PRESIDENT: Taiwan's newly-inaugurated president has called for a resumption of dialogue with China. In his inaugural address today President Ma Ying-jeou said he would pursue cross-Strait ties and regional stability. Mr. Ma also called for strengthening security ties with the United States. Washington is Taiwan's leading arms supplier and has pledged to protect the island from Chinese military aggression. The 57-year-old Harvard University graduate was sworn in at the presidential office building in Taipei. He then greeted well-wishers. Mr. Ma, who replaces President Chen Shui-bian, is a member of the Nationalist Party, which supports stronger business and transportation ties with China.
TAIWAN - CORRUPTION: Prosecutors in Taiwan opened a corruption probe today into former President Chen Shui-bian, just hours after the island's new president, Ma Ying-jeou, was inaugurated. Supreme Court prosecutors have asked the government to hand over documents kept confidential while President Chen was in office. Mr. Chen's wife (Wu Shu-chen) was indicted in late 2006 on charges of embezzling 450-thousand dollars from a special presidential fund. At the time, prosecutors said Mr. Chen would be indicted on the same charges after he left office and his immunity from prosecution ended. Mr. Chen denies any wrongdoing.
US POLITICS: Voters head to the polls today in the U.S. states of Kentucky and Oregon, where Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue the race for their party's presidential nomination. Obama, the frontrunner, campaigned Monday in Montana ahead of that state's June third primary. Clinton was in the southeastern state of Kentucky, where she outlined measures to reduce the rising cost of fuel, including a temporary suspension of a federal gasoline tax, paid for by the profits of oil companies. Clinton leads in Kentucky opinion polls, while Obama is favored in the northwestern state of Oregon.
IRAQ: Iraqi forces are moving into Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood for what the military calls a peace operation. Military officials say troops entered the sprawling area in the capital's east today to try to stabilize and secure the area. Sadr City is a stronghold of Iraq's extremist Shi'ite cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr. U.S.-backed military operations in the past there have triggered deadly street fighting. But residents of Sadr City say the Iraqi troops were not attacked when they entered the area today. The Iraqi government reached a cease-fire with Sadr earlier this month, following weeks of heavy fighting that killed hundreds of people.
LEBANON: Arab mediators are struggling to salvage talks between Lebanon's rival factions, hoping to resolve a months-long political crisis that has turned violent. Officials close to the negotiations in Doha, Qatar, say today likely will be the last chance for Lebanon's Western-backed government and Hezbollah-led opposition to resolve their differences. The two sides have been meeting since Friday. The talks suffered a setback Monday when the opposition rejected Qatari proposals for the political rivals to elect a new president and form a unity government before working on a new election law.
JAPAN - AFRICA: Japan's prime minister says his government will double its aid to Africa over the next five years to try to boost development on the continent. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda unveiled the plan at a cabinet-level meeting today on Japan's foreign aid. A foreign ministry official said the increase would raise annual aid to African countries to one-point-nine billion dollars by 2012. The official said the aid would mainly be used to promote agriculture, education, health and infrastructure. The announcement came ahead of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, which will be held in Yokohama from May 28th through the 30th.
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