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Clinton Seeks Stronger U.S Ties with China


CLINTON - ASIA: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States and China are working to strengthen their bilateral relationship by focusing on areas of cooperation, not contention. After a meeting Saturday in Beijing with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, Clinton made it clear that overall, the new Obama administration seeks to forge good rellations with China. She outlined areas where Washington is seeking to work with China, including combatting the global economic crisis and mitigating climate change. She also said China and the U.S. are resuming military exchanges that were suspended last October when the Bush administration notified Congress of its plans to sell nearly $7 billion worth of arms to Taiwan.

CHINA - RIGHTS: Chinese human rights activists say police have harassed and intimidated dissidents so they would not speak out during U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Beijing. The Chinese Human Rights Defenders group said Saturday that a number of dissidents have been put under house arrest, questioned and followed by Beijing police in an effort to silence them during Clinton's visit. The group said that among those under house arrest is Zeng Jinyan, the wife of imprisoned activist Hu Jia. It issued a statement after Clinton said the debate with China over human rights should not get in the way of progress in other areas.

OBAMA - ECONOMY: U.S. President Barack Obama says that starting Saturday morning, employers across the country will begin reducing taxes for 95 percent of working families, under the economic stimulus plan he signed into law earlier this week. Mr. Obama said the U.S. Treasury Department is now directing employers to cut the amount of taxes being withheld from paychecks and that by April 1 a typical family will begin taking home an additional $65 every month. In his weekly broadcast address Saturday, President Obama said this tax cut is going to more Americans more quickly than any ever before.

ISRAEL - LEBANON: Lebanese security sources say Israel has fired artillery shells into southern Lebanon, after three rockets were fired toward Israel from Lebanon. Israeli sources say one of those rockets landed in northern Israel and wounded three people. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack on Israel, but Israeli officials held Lebanon's government responsible. The French news agency quotes a spokesman for the Lebanese-based militant group Hezbollah as saying the group had nothing to do with the attack. Rockets were fired from Lebanese territory into Israel at least twice during Israel's three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip last month.

ISRAEL - HAMAS: A senior U.S. State Department official has confirmed the receipt of a letter written by the Palestinian militant group Hamas to U.S. President Barack Obama. The official said on Friday that the letter was passed on to U.S. Senator John Kerry by United Nations officials when Kerry visited the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Kerry had no contact with Hamas officials during the trip to the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory. Officials did not reveal the contents of the letter (which is currently in the hands of the U.S. Consulate-General in Jerusalem) but said they would be communicated to Washington.

AUSTRALIA - THAILAND: An Australian author jailed in Thailand for insulting the country's monarchy returned home Saturday after receiving a royal pardon. A lawyer for Harry Nicolaides says the author was released from prison late Friday after serving a month in jail. Nicolaides' family greeted him at the Melbourne airport. He told reporters he had learned just before his flight that his mother suffered a stroke and is recovering in a hospital. He said he cried for hours. Nicolaides was sentenced last month to three years in prison for defaming Thailand's king and crown prince in a 2005 novel.

SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka's military says it shot down two Tamil Tiger rebels aircraft conducting a brazen air raid on the capital Friday. The military said anti-aircraft fire took down the rebel planes, after they were detected flying over Colombo. One plane crashed into a government building, killing at least two people and injuring 48 others. Sri Lankan officials say the other rebel aircraft crashed near the international airport north of Colombo. The plane's pilot was killed. The pro-rebel Web site, Tamilnet, reported the two rebel pilots were part of (" Black Air Tiger") a suicide squad.

US - AFGHAN DETAINEES: The Obama administration says detainees at the U.S. air base in Bagram, Afghanistan cannot use U.S. courts to challenge their detention. The ruling by the U.S. Justice Department upholds the former Bush administration's policy on the issue. Attorneys representing the detainees expressed disappointment with the decision. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prisoners at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to file such court petitions because the United States has jurisdiction over that facility.

US - AFGHANISTAN: Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a top U.S. lawmaker have held talks on the American strategic review of U.S.-led military efforts in Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai's office says he and the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, met Saturday in the capital, Kabul. A statement says the two discussed U.S.-Afghan relations and ways of bringing peace and security to Afghanistan, and improving the economy. It quotes Pelosi as saying she is happy with the progress of democracy in Afghanistan, and that she encouraged Mr. Karzai to have an Afghan delegation coming to the U.S. next week to convey new Afghan strategies against terrorism.

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