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Obama: Precautions Taken to Confront Swine Flu Threat


SWINE FLU: U.S. President Barack Obama says his administration has taken aggressive action to confront the outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu virus to prepare for the possibility that it could get worse. In a weekly broadcast address Saturday, Mr. Obama outlined the precautions the government has taken, including asking Congress for $1.5 billion dollars to purchase treatments and to develop a vaccine. He said the current strain of the flu can be defeated using available antiviral treatment.

FLU SDBR - ASIA: South Korea says it has confirmed its first case of the H1N1 swine flu virus, and Hong Kong has quarantined hundreds of hotel guests, as the disease spread from Mexico to East Asia. South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Saturday a 51-year woman who recently visited Mexico tested positive for the virus. She was the country's first confirmed case of the new flu virus. In Hong Kong, authorities Friday quarantined 200 guests and 100 staff of a hotel for a week after a tourist from Mexico who stayed there tested positive for the H1N1 virus.

PAKISTAN: Pakistani officials say security forces clashed with militants near the Afghan border Saturday, leaving 16 militants and two soldiers dead. Authorities say troops fought back after militants attacked a security post in the Mohmad tribal district. The area has been the scene of frequent clashes between security forces and Islamic extremists. The Pakistani military also has been battling a Taliban insurgency in the northwest. Officials say more than 170 militants and at least two police officers have been killed in several days of fighting.

US - AFGHAN - PAKISTAN: The White House says President Barack Obama will host talks with his counterparts from Afghanistan and Pakistan next week in Washington. Spokesman Robert Gibbs says Mr. Obama will speak jointly and separately with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari starting Wednesday at the White House. Meantime, the New York Times reports that the Obama administration is considering reaching out to former Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Sharif heads the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N party, and has ties to Pakistani Islamists.

LAOS - BRITAIN: A pregnant British woman faces death by firing squad in Laos if she is convicted next week of drug smuggling. Prosecutors say 20-year-old Samantha Orobator was in possession of 680 grams of heroin when she was arrested at Wattay airport in August. The legal charity Reprieve has called on the British government to intervene with Lao authorities on her behalf. The British Foreign Office says it is monitoring her welfare closely. Reprieve says Orobator became pregnant in the notoriously abusive Phonthong prison in December, four months after her arrest.

BURMA - CYCLONE NARGIS: The United Nations says that one year after being hit by Cyclone Nargis, hundreds of thousands of people in Burma are still in need. In a statement, the U.N. said there are urgent needs for sustainable shelter for half a million vulnerable people and for support to agriculture and fishing. The storm killed 138,000 people. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Bushow Parejuli, who has been leading the U.N.'s assistance efforts for the past year, said many of the dwellings in which people are now living were made of materials salvaged from wrecked buildings, with tarpaulins spread over them to deflect the rain.

FIJI: South Pacific nations say they have suspended Fiji from a regional grouping because of the country's rejection of democracy and human rights. The chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum, Toke Talagi, said Saturday that the government in Fiji displays what he called "such a total disregard for basic human rights, democracy and freedom" that it has no place in the bloc. The decision by the 16-nation forum comes after Fiji's military government Friday ruled out elections in the country until 2014. The Pacific Islands Forum had called on Fiji to set a date by Saturday for elections this year.

SOMALIA - PIRACY: Somali pirates have hijacked a British cargo ship in the Indian Ocean. A NATO official and a maritime watchdog association confirmed the capture Saturday. Pirates also told journalists they had captured a Ukrainian ship carrying vehicles. A day earlier, a Portuguese warship successfully prevented pirates from attacking a Norwegian-owned oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden. The warship sent a helicopter when the tanker's crew radioed for help, and the pirates fled (in their small boat) to their mothership. (News Updates)

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