CHINA - CONGRESS: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says he is confident China's economy will be
able to grow about eight percent this year, despite the unprecedented
challenges of the global financial crisis.
In an address Thursday during the opening session of China's top
legislature - the National People's Congress - Mr. Wen said the economy
will be fine, if it adopts what he called the "right policies and
Mr. Wen gave a detailed outline of China's $585 billion stimulus plan,
largely for infrastructure projects, which was announced in November of
last year. He also gave more details about a $125 billion plan to
reform the health care system.
CHINA - TAIWAN: China says it is ready to hold talks with Taiwan on political and
military issues, with an aim toward reaching an eventual peace
In his speech before the opening session of the National People's
Congress Wednesday, Premier Wen Jiabao said relations between Beijing
and Taiwan have undergone "major breakthroughs" over the past year.
Relations between the two rivals have considerably improved since
Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, whose Kuomintang Party seeks closer
ties with the mainland, took office last May. China and Taiwan began
direct air and shipping services across the Taiwan Strait, ending a
decades-old ban on regular links.
SUDAN - BASHIR: Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has rejected a decision by the International Criminal Court to seek his arrest for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. In his first comments since the Hague-based court issued an arrest warrant against him, Mr. Bashir told a meeting of top politicians that Sudan would act "decisively" but responsibly against those who threaten its security. He later addressed thousands of supporters in Khartoum who demonstrated against the ICC's decision. ICC judges Wednesday stopped short of charging Mr. Bashir with genocide, as prosecutors had wanted.
BASHIR REACT: China is urging the United Nations Security Council to suspend the
International Criminal Court's arrest warrant for Sudanese President
Omar Hassan al-Bashir. In a statement Thursday, China's Foreign
Ministry says Beijing hopes
the Security Council will heed the calls of African and Arab countries,
like Egypt, to suspend the war crimes case against Mr. Bashir.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman said China opposes any acts
that might interfere with the peaceful situation of Sudan and its
China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, and a close
trade partner of oil-rich Sudan. The Security Council can postpone the
warrant under a clause in the ICC charter.
NATO MINISTERS: NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels for talks expected to focus on resuming high-level ties with Russia that were severed when Russian troops swept into Georgia last year. NATO spokesman James Appathurai says there are areas where NATO and Russia should engage more fully, including Afghanistan and fighting terrorism. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she wants to have a more robust and meaningful dialogue with Russia on a range of issues, including cooperation in missile defense. She said she believes Russia is starting to understand that a U.S. missile defense system in Europe is aimed at Iran, not Russia.
IRAQ - VIOLENCE: Iraqi police say a car bomb attack south of Baghdad has killed at least 10 people and wounded at least 50 others. Police said the bomb exploded Thursday in a crowded livestock market on the outskirts of Hilla, in Babil province. The blast comes one day after a suicide bomber killed three people and wounded at least 10 others in central Baghdad. Violence in Iraq has dropped sharply over the past year, but the security situation remains fragile. The U.S. military has been transferring security responsibilities to the Iraqi government, with U.S. forces scheduled to withdraw from the country by 2011.
ZIMBABWE: U.S. President Barack Obama says he is extending sanctions against Zimbabwe for another year. In a notice to Congress late Wednesday, President Obama said he is taking the action because Zimbabwe's political crisis has not been resolved. He said the crisis has undermined Zimbabwe's democratic processes and institutions. The president also said actions by some members of Zimbabwe's government pose a continuing and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States. The U.S. sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes against individual government officials and allies of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.
BURMA - US: Burma's ruling military government is denouncing recent criticisms of its rule by the United States.
In its annual global human rights review, the U.S. State Department
accuses the junta of committing severe human rights abuses in 2008,
including the violent suppression of dissent.
But in a statement published in the state-run New Light of Myanmar
newspaper, the government scolds the U.S. for making "false
allegations" against other nations, and says Washington should work on
its own hunan rights record.
Burma also lashed out over a separate U.S. report that said the junta
had "failed demonstrably" to combat the rise of opium poppy
AUSTRALIA - SOUTH KOREA: Australia and South Korea have agreed to begin formal talks on a free trade agreement and to deepen their security ties.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Australian Prime Minister
Kevin Rudd announced their plans Thursday following talks in Canberra.
Mr. Rudd said the two countries agreed it was important for their
militaries, specialists and defense planners to work closer together.
Mr. Rudd said they would focus on common challenges of security in the Asia-Pacific region.
A statement from the two leaders said they would focus on expanding
cooperation on global disarmament and stopping the spread of weapons of
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