ລິ້ງ ສຳຫລັບເຂົ້າຫາ

US Working to Free Captain Held by Pirates


SOMALIA - PIRATES: U.S. officials say they are working to free the American captain of a cargo ship being held hostage by pirates on a life boat off the coast of Somalia. The U.S. warship, the USS Bainbridge, is on scene tracking the life boat, and more naval ships (including the warship USS Halyburton) were said to be on their way. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters the lifeboat appears to have run out of fuel. She said the Navy and FBI are working to bring an end the hostage situation. Analysts say it is unlikely the U.S. Navy will resort to using force, because it would put the American hostage at risk.

THAILAND - PROTESTS: Anti-government protesters pushed through security lines and converged on the venue of an Asian summit in Thailand Friday, threatening to disrupt a meeting meant to tackle the global financial crisis. Wearing red-shirts and chanting slogans, protesters broke through a line of about 200 soldiers in riot gear to an area directly outside the convention center's entrance in the resort of Pattaya. Protesters - who are supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra - have threatened to disrupt the meeting if Thailand's current prime minister refuses to resign and call early elections.

CHINA - TRADE: Chinese exports fell 17.1 percent in March from the previous year, the fifth straight monthly decline. Quoting statistics from the government's customs bureau, the official Xinhua news agency says the fall in exports was not as bad as February, which saw a 25.7 percent slump from the previous year. However, while the decline in exports eased somewhat, China's General Administration of Customs says the sharper weakening in imports pushed China's trade surplus to $18.56 billion in March, up from $4.84 billion in February. The report says exports were worth $90.29 billion in March, while imports fell 25.1 percent from last year to $71.73 billion dollars.

INDONESIA - ELECTION: Unofficial results in Indonesia's parliamentary elections gave the president's Democratic Party a strong victory, but not enough to avoid needing a coalition. Projections show Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's party has won about 20 percent of the votes, a far better showing than in the last election in 2004. The early results put the Democratic Party ahead of the party of the former president (Megawati Sukarnoputri of the Democratic Party of Struggle) and their main coalition partner (the Golkar party), who each are projected to win 14 percent of Thursday's vote.

NORTH KOREA: Japan has renewed sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang's controversial rocket launch last Sunday. The sanctions were expanded Friday to tighten oversight on funds transferred to North Korea, as well as restrictions on imports and exports. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Japan, held a half-hour meeting late Thursday to discuss North Korea's rocket launch. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice and Japanese Ambassador Yukio Takasu told reporters the meeting was productive, but did not elaborate. The Japanese ambassador said consultations will continue.

NORTH KOREA - POLITICS: North Korean president Kim Jong Il promoted his brother-in-law Jang Song Thaek to the powerful National Defense Commission, sparking speculation he is preparing for his successor. The appointment confirms Jang's unofficial role as Mr. Kim's second-in-command. The 63-year-old is seen as the likely candidate to take over should Mr. Kim pass away suddenly -- and to mentor one of Mr. Kim's three sons to eventually take power. The move came as North Korea held an annual session of its rubber-stamp parliament to renew Mr. Kim's mandate just days after North Korea sparked controversy with a rocket launch.

US ECONOMY: U.S. President Barack Obama is to meet with his top economic advisers at the White House Friday amid signs of a possible turnaround in the U.S. economy. On Thursday, White House economic advisor Lawrence Summers said the sense of economic "free fall" will end in a few months as the government stimulus takes hold. He stressed that the pace of recovery will depend on the global economy, consumer psychology and how well the Obama administration implements its economic program. U.S. markets have recently been buoyed by several factors, including a strong profit forecast from the nation's fourth largest bank, Wells Fargo, and an expectation of a rebound in the retail sector in April.

US - WAR COSTS: U.S. President Barack Obama has formally asked Congress for an additional $83 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan this year. In a letter Thursday to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mr. Obama says the security situation in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan demands urgent attention. The president says the vast majority of the funding, nearly 95 percent, would be devoted to two efforts -- working to defeat al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and supporting U.S. military personnel who are helping Iraqis take charge of their future.

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