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EU Threatens Zimbabwe With Further Sanctions Over Political Violence


ZIMBABWE: The European Union is expected to threaten further sanctions on those deemed responsible for political violence in Zimbabwe, ahead of a key presidential run-off election. A draft statement by EU leaders meeting in Brussels reiterates the need for the June 27th runoff between opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and incumbent Robert Mugabe to be peaceful, free and fair. Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change says about 70 of its supporters have been killed in what it describes as a campaign of violence before the poll. The president and ruling party deny responsibility for the unrest. Meanwhile a Zimbabwean judge has refused to release MDC official Tendai Biti, who has been charged with treason and other offenses. He has been detained since June 12th.

THAILAND - PROTESTS: Several thousand anti-government protesters have pushed past a police barricade in Thailand's capital to the gates of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej's office to demand he step down. After initially scuffling with demonstrators, police offered little resistance to the massive crowd as they surged forward to the gates of Mr. Samak's Bangkok office to stage a sit-in. Members of the People's Alliance for Democracy have gathered in the streets of the capital city for the past three weeks, demanding Mr. Samak's resignation. The PAD accuses the prime minister's government of being a proxy for his predecessor, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006.

THAILAND - HELICOTER CRASH: Ten people are dead after a military helicopter crashed today in Thailand's insurgency-plagued south. Military officials say the helicopter crashed in the province of Yala after it developed a mechanical problem. Among the dead were six forensic officers, two pilots and two mechanics. The helicopter was returning to its base after leaving the scene of a gun battle between security forces and Islamic insurgents. Yala is one three Muslim-dominated southern provinces that have been wracked by a violent separatist uprising since 2004. About three-thousand people have been killed in the unrest.

CHINA - QUAKE - HEALTH: The United Nations' health agency says up to 10 percent of the survivors from last month's deadly earthquake in southwest China will require long-term mental health care. Hans Troedsson, the World Health Organization's representative to China, says the region's health care system will need to be able handle the growing demand for psychological services. Troedsson also says rehabilitation facilities will need to be set up to provide care for those who lost limbs in the disaster. Hospitals in the region were overwhelmed after the May 12th earthquake, which killed 70-thousand people. But Troedsson says there have been no major outbreaks of disease in the affected areas.

US - CHINA - QUAKE: The United States says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit quake-hit Sichuan province during her visit to China later this month. A State Department spokesperson says Rice will visit the Sichuan capital of Chengdu on June 29th to express the condolences on behalf of the American people for quake victims. The spokesperson said Thursday that Rice will also meet with officials and non-governmental organizations involved in quake relief. Secretary Rice will be the highest-level U.S. representative to visit areas hit by the quake. The State Department has not said if Rice plans to announce additional U.S. aid. Later in the day, she will fly to Beijing for talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and other senior officials.

INDONESIA - ACTIVIST: A former senior official in Indonesia's intelligence agency has been detained in connection to the 2004 murder of a prominent human rights activist. A police spokesman says the official surrendered Thursday and is being held for questioning in the death of Munir Said Thalib. Munir died in September 2004 of arsenic poisoning during a flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam. He was an outspoken critic of the military's human rights record. A pilot for Indonesia's Garuda Airlines (Pollycarpus Priyanto) was sentenced in January to 20 years for serving an arsenic-laced drink to Munir. The former head of Garuda was sentenced to a year-long prison sentence in February in connection with the murder.

CANADA - BURMA - REFUGEES: Canada's immigration minister says the country will welcome more than a thousand additional Karen refugees from Burma over the next two years. In a statement issued Thursday, Diane Finley said Canadian officials had recently visited refugee camps in Thailand where thousands of Karen -- a minority ethnic group in Burma -- are housed. The minister said Canadian officials selected one-thousand-300 refugees for resettlement in Canada. She said many of those chosen already have relatives living in Canada. The group fled Burma after a major offensive by the Burmese government against the separatist Karen National Union.

AFGHANISTAN: Afghan officials say a suicide bomber has killed at least five civilians and one U.S.-led coalition soldier in the southern province of Helmand. The provincial police chief said the bomber targeted a convoy of U.S.-led coalition troops today as they passed through the town of Gereshk. Coalition forces say two other soldiers were killed during operations in Helmand on Thursday. In neighboring Kandahar province on Thursday, Afghan and NATO forces claimed a major victory against Taliban insurgents. An Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman said at least 56 militants were killed in an offensive that began Wednesday in Arghandab district.

INDIA - ECONOMY: The Indian government says inflation has risen to a 13-year high after record high oil costs forced the government to raise fuel prices. Official figures issued today show the wholesale price index rose to 11-point-zero-five percent for the week ending June seventh. That is a more than two percent increase compared to the previous week. The Indian government has raised the price of gasoline and diesel fuel to help state oil companies stay profitable despite the surging price of crude oil worldwide. Indians across the country have staged strikes to protest the fuel hikes.

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