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Officials: Pakistan Kills 35 Militants in Swat Valley


PAKISTAN - VIOLENCE: Pakistani officials say troops have killed 35 Taliban militants in clashes Wednesday in the country's northwestern Swat Valley. Thousands of civilians have been fleeing the area around the region's main town of Mingora for days, fearing a major military operation. North West Frontier Province's information minister said authorities expect up to 500,000 people to leave Swat in the coming days. He said the government is preparing temporary camps to house those expected refugees.

AFGHANISTAN: The International Committee of the Red Cross says U.S.-led coalition warplanes killed dozens of civilians in western Afghanistan earlier this week. Spokeswoman Jessica Barry said Wednesday that an ICRC team in Farah province at the site of the strikes found the bodies of women and children among those killed. Barry also said that an aid volunteer for Afghanistan's Red Crescent organization was killed, along with 13 members of his family. U.S. and Afghan authorities say they are investigating the incident.

RUSSIA NATO: Russia is expelling two Canadian diplomats assigned to NATO's office in Moscow. Russian officials and representatives for the Canadian embassy in Moscow said that Russia revoked the officials' diplomatic accreditation on Wednesday. Canada's embassy called the decision "counterproductive" to NATO efforts to re-engage Russia. NATO expelled two Russian diplomats attached to alliance headquarters in Brussels last week after a spy scandal.

IRAN - JOURNALIST: The father of imprisoned Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi says his daughter has ended her hunger strike after two weeks. The freelance journalist was tried in Iran last month and sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of espionage. Saberi's father, Reza Saberi, said Wednesday that she ended her hunger strike Monday. But Iran's judiciary denies she was on a hunger strike and says she is in good health. An Iranian judiciary spokesman said an appeals court will hear Saberi's case next week.

SWINE FLU: U.S. health officials say a woman in Texas has become the second person outside of neighboring Mexico to die of the swine influenza A-H1N1 virus, while life in Mexico began returning to normal as the outbreak there subsides. Texas health officials on Tuesday said the woman, who died Monday, was in her 30s and had other chronic health problems. She is the first U.S. citizen to die of the disease, and the second swine flu fatality inside the United States. A Mexican toddler died in a Texas hospital several days ago.

NOKOR - NUCLEAR: The U.S. envoy for North Korea is set to depart Wednesday for East Asia and Russia in an effort to revive stalled talks on North Korea's nuclear program. The U.S. State Department on Tuesday said Special Representative Stephen Bosworth will lead a delegation to China, South Korea, Japan and Russia, but does not plan a visit to North Korea. The aim of the trip is to convince Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table. Prospects for a de-nuclearized Korean peninsula have diminished in recent weeks with a series of defiant moves by North Korea's communist government.

ASIA - IMF - ECONOMY: A newly released International Monetary Fund report on Asia and the Pacific warns that it may still be some time before the region's economies recover from the global financial crisis. In the report (released Wednesday), the IMF forecasts that Asian growth will slow to 1.3 percent in 2009, before rebounding to 4.3 percent in 2010. That is still below the region's growth rate of 5.1 percent in 2008. The IMF says Asia will need to rebalance its economies from a focus on exports to domestic demand because it believes that consumption in advanced countries may remain weak for years to come.

US ECONOMY: The head of the U.S. central bank says the U.S. economy will hit bottom and then begin growing again later this year. U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also told a congressional committee Tuesday the recovery is likely to be slow, and unemployment will continue to rise for a while. Bernanke said consumer credit remains tight and business investment is still weak, so companies will be cautious in hiring new people. The Fed chairman said evidence that the economy will stop shrinking includes improved consumer spending, rising consumer confidence, and some improvements in the battered housing sector.

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