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Obama: 'Signs of Progress' in US Economy


OBAMA WRAP: U.S. President Barack Obama tried to build public support for his economic policies and budget plan Tuesday evening, telling the country there are "signs of progress" in recovering from the painful recession. The president told a White House news conference that his administration is working to grow the economy over the long term, but he cautioned there is "no quick fix" to the country's economic woes. Mr. Obama repeated his pledge to cut the huge projected budget deficit in half by the end of his first term, but said that will require the nation to make tough choices.

JAPAN - ECONOMY: Japanese Finance Ministry officials say the nation's exports saw a nearly 50 percent decline in February from the previous year, the country's sharpest slide in more than two decades. Exports tumbled 49.4 percent last month from a year earlier as deepening recessions in the United States and Europe cut demand for Japanese electronics and cars. According to Japan's official statistics, shipments to the United States, Japan's biggest auto market, tumbled 58.4 percent from last year, while exports to EU countries were down 55 percent. Economists say it is unlikely that Japan's exports will recover soon. J

WORLD ECONOMY: U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have urged the world's major economies to find new areas of growth to replace those that triggered the global economic crisis. The two leaders met for talks at the White House Tuesday. Mr. Obama said they agreed that clean energy can be a new source of economic growth with "enormous potential." He also expressed confidence that his administration can work with other major economies at a summit in London next month to stabilize the financial system.

US - COMMERCE SECRETARY: The U.S. Senate has voted to approve the nomination of former Washington state Governor Gary Locke as U.S. commerce secretary, a post that has been difficult for President Barack Obama to fill. The Senate approved the nomination Tuesday. Locke, a Democrat, has been quoted as saying he would pursue "fair trade" with countries like China and South Korea if confirmed to the post. Locke, the son of Chinese immigrants, served two terms as governor of Washington state from 1997 to 2004. He was the first Chinese-American governor in the U.S. He strongly promoted trade with China during his time in office, leading several trade missions to the country.

SUDAN: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has arrived in Cairo, his second trip abroad since an international court ordered his arrest for alleged war crimes in Darfur. Mr. Bashir is expected to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Wednesday. The International Criminal Court has called on nations to arrest Mr. Bashir, but Egypt is unlikely to do that. Egypt is not a signatory to the court, and has urged the United Nations Security Council to postpone the ICC's case against Mr. Bashir. The Sudanese president visited Eritrea on Monday.

PHILIPPINES - KIDNAPPING: Islamic militants holding three Red Cross workers hostage say they will behead one of them if Philippine troops do not pull back from the militants' stronghold on the southern island of Jolo. Philippine officials say Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad has demanded that troops withdraw by the end of the month from an area on Jolo where they have been cornered by the Philippine military. Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torreso says the military is aware of the threat, but cannot pull out of Jolo. It is not the first time that the al-Qaida linked Abu Sayyaf militants have threatened to behead one of their hostages, which they've been holding since mid-January.

SINGAPORE - BURMA - REFUGEES: Singapore says it cannot accept Rohingya refugees if any of the Burmese minority group arrive on the city-state's shores. Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Balaji Sadasivan said Tuesday that Singapore does not have enough land or natural resources to accept asylum seekers. He added that this has been Singapore's policy for decades. Sadavisan was responding to a question in parliament about the Rohingya crisis. Members of the Muslim stateless minority have been fleeing by the thousands in boats from a border region with Bangladesh.

UN - ASYLUM: A new United Nations report says the number of people seeking asylum in wealthy countries rose for the second straight year in 2008, with Iraqis and Somalis leading the list. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says more than 380,000 refugees from war and poverty applied for asylum in 51 industrialized countries last year. Most wanted to go to the United States. UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said that most asylum seekers in 2008 still came from Iraq despite a drop from 2007. But he said the number of people looking to get away from starvation in Somalia soared last year.

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