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British National Executed in China


CHINA UK EXECUTION: Britain says China has executed a British citizen convicted of drug smuggling after rejecting appeals from the British government and his relatives, who said the man was mentally unstable and tricked into the crime. In a statement issued by Britain's Foreign Office Tuesday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was appalled and disappointed by the execution of 53-year-old Akmal Shaikh. The family issued a short statement expressing their grief at the Chinese decision to refuse mercy. Shaikh's family had said he suffered from bipolar disorder, a mental illness that includes manic behavior.

NOKOR - US - ACTIVIST: North Korea says it has arrested a U.S. citizen who illegally crossed the border from China last week. The announcement was carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency Tuesday. It gave no details other than to say the man entered the country on December 24th and is now under investigation. The announcement apparently refers to U.S. Christian missionary and human rights activist Robert Park. A colleague, Jo Sung-rae, said Park entered North Korea on Christmas Day carrying a Bible and a written human rights appeal for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

US AIRLINE ATTACK: U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States will use everything in its power to find and hold accountable those responsible for a failed bomb attack on a U.S. airliner. Mr. Obama spoke from (the U.S. Pacific state of) Hawaii Monday, his first public comments since a Nigerian man allegedly tried to detonate a bomb Friday aboard a Northwest Airlines jet on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. The president ordered a full review of air safety regulations and the terrorist watch-list system, in an effort to prevent future attacks.

CHINA - GOVERNMENT WASTE: China's national auditor says Chinese officials stole or misused $34.4 billion this year and that 67 senior officials are under criminal investigation. Chinese state media say that statistics from the National Audit Office show that investigators have recovered $2.4 billion following annual audits of 55 government departments and hundreds of public institutions and companies. The Chinese government releases such annual audits in hopes of allaying public anger about chronic corruption and official abuses.

IRAN: Iranian officials are denouncing international criticism of the Iranian government's deadly crackdown on nationwide opposition protests last Sunday. Iran's parliament speaker Ali Larijani read a statement from lawmakers Tuesday saying U.S. President Barack Obama is disgracing himself by praising the Iranian opposition. Mr. Obama said Monday he condemns what he called Iran's "violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranians." He also expressed "deep admiration for the courage and conviction of Iranians" who have been trying to exercise universal rights.

PAKISTAN: Pakistani officials say Sunni extremists have joined forces with pro-Taliban militants to try to destabilize Pakistan. Officials blame Sunni extremists for a suicide bombing at a Shi'ite religious procession in the city of Karachi Monday that killed at least 40 people. No group has claimed responsibility. Pakistan's president said in a statement that extremists appear to be making a deliberate attempt to turn the government's war against Islamist militants into a sectarian clash. Asif Ali Zardari says the extremists' goal is to make Pakistan's people "fight one another."

NIGERIA - VIOLENCE: Nigerian security forces have clashed with Islamic militants in the northern city of Bauchi. Residents say as many as 38 people were killed Monday as police and soldiers battled a group known as Yan Kala Kato. Details are sketchy, but witnesses say the militants used machetes in the fighting and that several homes were set on fire. The dead are said to include two soldiers. It was not immediately clear what caused the clash. Bauchi state was one of the areas in which the militant Islamic sect Boko Haram battled government forces for several days in July.

RUSSIA - US - DEFENSE: Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in Europe would destroy the strategic balance between the United States and Russia. Mr. Putin says that in order to preserve that balance, Russia needs to develop offensive weapons systems. Speaking with reporters in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostock, Mr. Putin says Russia wants access to more information on U.S. missile defense plans. He adds that plans for a missile defense system are also hindering talks on a new nuclear arms reduction treaty.

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