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US Embassy in Yemen Closes Due to al-Qaida Threat


YEMEN: The U.S. Embassy in Yemen says it is closed Sunday because of ongoing threats by the group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula "to attack American interests" in the country. The short news release issued by the embassy in Sana'a (Sunday) did not say if the closure was in response to any specific threat. The statement said that on Thursday, the embassy issued a message to American citizens in Yemen, urging them to remain vigilant amid "the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence" against Americans throughout the world.
In another development, Britain has agreed with the United States to fund a counter-terrorism police unit in Yemen as part of stepped-up efforts to combat the terror threat from that country following an al-Qaida plot to bomb a U.S. airliner. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office issued a statement Saturday saying Britain and the U.S. will also cooperate in supporting the Yemeni coast guard. The British prime minister announced Friday he will host a high-level international meeting on Yemen late this month (January 28).

AFGHANISTAN: The head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan says parliament's rejection of 70 percent of President Hamid Karzai's Cabinet nominees is a "political setback" that will prolong the establishment of a functional government. Kai Eide said Sunday in Kabul the rejection of 17 of the 24 nominees is "particularly worrying" for a country facing as many challenges as Afghanistan. He said Mr. Karzai needs to focus his attention on reform programs to stabilize the country. Instead, Mr. Karzai must now spend political energy submitting another roster of nominees for parliamentary approval. A Cabinet must be approved before the new government can officially begin work. Among the nominees rejected by parliament Saturday in secret balloting were incumbent Energy Minister Ismail Khan, a former warlord accused of human rights abuses. Parliament also rejected the only female in the Cabinet, the incumbent minister of Women's Affairs.

DENMARK - CARTOONIST: Danish authorities have charged a Somali man with two counts of attempted murder for Friday's attack on cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, whose depiction of the Prophet Muhammad angered the Muslim world in 2005. The 28-year-old suspect with alleged links to terrorist groups al-Shabab and al-Qaida was was rolled into a Danish court on a stretcher Saturday, and was charged with the attempted murder of the cartoonist and a policeman. He denied the charges. Denmark's police say the man, armed with a knife and an ax, broke into Westergaard's home near the town of Aarhus, about 200 kilometers northwest of the capital Copenhagen. The 74-year-old cartoonist fled with his granddaughter to a special safe room in the house, where he could call police.

BRAZIL - MUDSLIDES: Rescue crews in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro state are continuing to search for survivors of mudslides that have killed at least 64 people in the southeastern coastal region. Rescue teams were out in force Saturday after the mudslides and flooding triggered by heavy rains struck several coastal resort towns Thursday and Friday. Mounds of mud destroyed a hotel and buried homes in the beach town of Angra dos Reis. A similar slide was reported on the island of Ilha Grande. The coastal region is marked by steep coastal hillsides that gave way in many areas after at least three days of rain earlier in the week. Officials say hundreds of tourists were at the resorts to celebrate the New Year's holiday. Rains had subsided Saturday but, officials fear heavy rains forecast for the next few days could trigger more mudslides.

BURMA PAY: Officials in Burma say the military government has agreed to raise the salaries of low-paid civil servants ahead of a general election planned this year. A regime official said the new pay scale will take effect at the end of January. Under the new scale, civil servants with the lowest pay of $15 to $80 a month will receive a $20 a month hike. Workers receiving salaries above $100 are excluded from the plan. Burma, one of the world's poorest countries, has been hit hard by the spiraling price of commodities and consumer items, such as rice and cooking oil. Massive fuel price hikes in August 2007 sparked violent protests in the country.

CHINA WEATHER: Heavy snow hit the Chinese capital of Beijing Sunday,snarling traffic and stranding thousands of people at the main airport. The Beijing meteorological station said snow storms are expected to continue through Monday, accompanied by some of the coldest temperatures in decades. Beijing, which has seen little winter snow over the past few years, has experienced several storms so far this season, including at least one man-made snowstorm to help ease a lengthy drought. According to weather forecasts, bad weather is also affecting large areas of northern and northeastern China, with snow and plunging temperatures expected to continue into the first full week of the new year.

AUSTRALIA - FLOODS: Australian officials say rescue workers have evacuated more than 400 people from the rural town of Coonamble, after days of rain and flooding in New South Wales state over the New Year. Phil Campbell from the State Emergency Service says the town is likely to be isolated for at least a day. He said the local river (Castlereagh River) is expected to peak at around 5.5 meters in the early hours of Monday morning and could breach the levy. A Bureau of Meteorology spokesman said the flood is the biggest in the area in a decade.

For Lao translation of these news, click on our audio files at top right.


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