NEPAL: Nepal's newly installed special assembly is giving the country's unpopular king 15 days to leave the palace, as it prepares to formally abolish the 239-year-old monarchy. Government officials announced the deadline as the Constituent Assembly prepared to meet for the first time today. The first order of business is expected to be a motion that will turn Nepal into a republic. Despite bans on rallies, thousands of people gathered across the country to celebrate the end of King Gyanendra's reign. The king was seen leaving the palace with his wife, Komal, after the new assembly was sworn in Tuesday.
CHINA - QUAKE: China is focusing an increasing amount of resources on swelling lakes formed during this month's devastating earthquake, evacuating tens of thousands of people and mobilizing millions of dollars to prevent massive flooding. Heavy rains are expected in the coming days, raising concerns that a naturally formed dam in quake-struck Sichuan province could give way before workers drain the lake of its water. Rescue workers have evacuated more than 150-thousand people living below the lake. China has allocated about 27 million dollars to handle the so-called quake-lakes, which were formed when landslides blocked rivers following the massive May 12th earthquake.
BURMA: Burmese state media have softened their stance toward aid workers, saying donors can go to any area affected by Cyclone Nargis. The "New Light of Myanmar" newspaper reports that private donors are free to deliver supplies to cyclone victims in the Irrawaddy Delta, where authorities have previously tried to stop volunteers from entering. The government's insistence on handling cyclone recovery efforts on its own has slowed the delivery of much-needed aid to millions of Burmese. But relief experts say access has improved since U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Burma last week and got commitments that unconditional foreign aid is welcome.
AMNESTY - REPORT: Amnesty International says there is a growing demand for justice around the world but the denial of human rights is still widespread. In its annual report, the London-based human rights group today said torture is still practiced in 81 countries, while 77 deny free speech and 54 fail to provide fair trials. The report also criticizes the United States and China. It says the U.S. "sets the standard" for the behavior of governments worldwide but that the standard has been undermined by practices at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
INDONESIA - OPEC: A top Indonesian official says the country will withdraw from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The minister of energy and mineral resources (Purnomo Yusgiantoro) says he will sign the documents formalizing the decision today President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono suggested pulling out of OPEC earlier this month because Indonesia consumes more oil than it exports. He said Indonesia's oil production has dropped to less than a million barrels a day, which is not enough to meet the country's own needs.
CHINA - TAIWAN: China and Taiwan pledged to promote peaceful relations as the head of Taiwan's ruling party held an unprecedented meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao today in Beijing. The meeting is the highest-level contact since the two-sides split in 1949. China's state-controlled media broadcast pictures of the president and Nationalist Party chief Wu Po-hsiung, showing them shaking hands during a red carpet welcome at the Great Hall of the People. In remarks before the meeting, Mr. Hu expressed his hope that the two sides could exchange opinions, look to the future, and push forward the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations.
I SRAEL - OLMERT: Israeli media say Defense Minister Ehud Barak is considering asking Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to step down over corruption allegations. Barak is expected to meet with senior members of his Labor Party today to discuss whether to continue supporting Mr. Olmert. The Labor Party is a key member of Mr. Olmert's ruling coalition. Its withdrawal from the government would leave the prime minister without a parliamentary majority and could force early elections. Israeli prosecutors are investigating whether Mr. Olmert accepted illegal campaign contributions or bribes from U.S. businessman Morris Talansky.
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