CHINA QUAKE: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says the death toll from last week's earthquake in southwestern China has passed 60 thousand and could rise above 80-thousand. Wen announced the new figures in a meeting today with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the city of Yingxiu in Sichuan province, about 60 kilometers from the epicenter of the quake. Mr. Ban is touring areas in Sichuan affected by the May 12th quake.. Previously, Chinese officials said the quake had killed more than 55-thousand people and left nearly 25-thousand others missing.
BURMA: Burma today is holding a second round of a constitutional refererendum in areas devastated by Cyclone Nargis on May third. The military government had delayed the referendum in the main city of Rangoon, and areas of the Irrawaddy Delta. However, voting went ahead in the rest of the country a week after the storm hit, prompting an outcry from the international community. The government has already announced that voters overwhelmingly approved the draft constitution, which it says will lead to general elections in 2010. Opposition and human rights groups say it will only strengthen the military's control.
ZIMBABWE: Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has returned to his homeland to campaign ahead of a presidential run-off election against incumbent Robert Mugabe on June 27th. Mr. Tsvangirai arrived this morning at Harare airport on a scheduled flight from South Africa and was then driven off in a three-car convoy. The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change had been due to return last week but rumors of an assassination attempt caused him to postpone the trip. The government and the ruling ZANU-PF party have denied plotting to kill Mr. Tsvangirai, who had been traveling abroad since shortly after the first-round election March 29th.
THAILAND - LAOS: Military authorities at a refugee camp in northeastern Thailand say ethnic Hmong from Laos set fire to their homes Friday to avoid being returned to their home country. Officials at the Huay Nam Khao refugee camp in Phetchabun say they suspect arson, because residents evacuated their homes, taking their belongings, just before the blaze broke out. There were no reports of deaths or injuries. Aid workers at the camp say the fire could have been set by Hmong trying to avoid repatriation to communist Laos, where they say they face persecution.
RUSSIA - CHINA: Russian President Dmitri Medvedev says his country's relationship with China is now a driving force on the world stage and can no longer be ignored. The Kremlin leader told students at Peking University today the international community can no longer make major decisions without the two countries. And he said Russia will continue to pursue closer ties with China, even if it makes other countries uneasy. The comments come on day two of Mr. Medvedev's visit to China. He began the day by laying a wreath at the Monument to the People's Heroes in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
PAKISTAN VIOLENCE: Police in northwestern Pakistan say a roadside bomb has killed a police officer and his driver in northwestern Pakistan. Police say the bomb detonated along a road in the North West Frontier provincial capital of Peshawar today. A separate, similar attack not far from Peshawar killed one civilian and wounded three others. Meanwhile, officials say residents in the North Waziristan region have found the body of an Afghan man accused by militants of spying for the United States. A note found near the body warned a similar fate awaits anyone found helping the U.S.
PAKISTAN POLITICS: Pakistan's main ruling party is moving ahead with plans to restore the country's constitution to its original form. The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) says it has finished work on a 62-point plan designed to reverse changes made by President Pervez Musharraf. Party leader Asif Ali Zardari told a seminar on media freedom Friday the package of amendments would also help reinstate judges fired by Mr. Musharraf during emergency rule. Zardari expects the plan to come up for a vote before parliament in the near future. Constitutional amendments require the approval of two-thirds of parliament.
US POLITICS: U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton has apologized for citing the 1968 assassination of presidential candidate Robert Kennedy while defending her decision to remain in the race for the White House. The Democratic presidential candidate told reporters Friday that she meant no offense to the Kennedy family. She said she was trying to make the point that in 1968, candidates were still campaigning in June when Kennedy was killed. Clinton made the comment while campaigning in South Dakota Friday. She said then that she could not understand calls for her to quit the race for her party's nomination when past Democratic races, such as Kennedy's, had extended into June.
INDONESIA - FUEL: Indonesia increased fuel prices overnight by nearly 30 percent because of the surging cost of oil and gas on the global market. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's announcement earlier this month that government fuel subsidies would have to be slashed sparked protests by students, legislators and other groups. Protesters argued that the price hikes would make life more difficult for Indonesia's poor. The government says the money saved from oil subsidies will be used to fund a national welfare program.
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