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China Speaks Out Against Obama - Dalai Lama Meeting


US - CHINA - DALAI LAMA: China has urged the United States to "immediately withdraw" plans for a White House meeting next week between President Barack Obama and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. China's official Xinhua news agency on Friday quoted Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu as saying China "firmly opposes" the visit. Ma asked the United States to fully understand the "high sensitivity of Tibet-related issues." The vice-chairman of the Chinese Communist Party department that handles Tibetan issues, Zhu Weiqun, recently expressed similar views.

CLINTON - HOSPITALIZED: Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has undergone a procedure to open blocked arteries in his heart. Doctors put two stents in one of Mr. Clinton's coronary arteries Thursday at a New York City hospital, after he felt discomfort in his chest in recent days. Mr. Clinton's doctor, Alan Schwartz, says the former president did not suffer a heart attack or damage to his heart. Schwartz says the procedure went smoothly and Mr. Clinton's prognosis for recovery is excellent. He also says the former president has been up and walking around.

HAITI - EARTHQUAKE: Haitians observe a day of mourning Friday to mark one month since the devastating earthquake left much of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding areas in ruins, and more than 217,000 people dead. At least 1 million others were left homeless after the 7.0 magnitude quake struck Haiti on January 12. An international aid operation is in progress in Haiti, which had already been struggling to recover from tropical storms that wiped out 15 percent of the country's economic output in 2008. Earlier Thursday, heavy rains soaked the Caribbean country, raising fears about flooding and the spread of disease among the people left homeless by the quake.

IRAN: The United States says Iran's attempts to block nearly all media coverage of Thursday's protests show the government there "fears its own people." State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley cited reports of local satellite television, telephone and Internet services being shut down. The anti-government protests in Tehran coincided with rallies marking the 31st anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic. Crowley said the so-called "information blockade" was apparently intended to prevent demonstrators from communicating with each other.

NOKOR - NUCLEAR: A South Korean report says North Korea's top nuclear negotiator is expected to visit the United States next month, amid renewed efforts to resume six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program. South Korea's Yonhap news agency on Friday quoted a diplomatic source as saying Kim Kye Gwan is scheduled to visit the U.S. The trip would follow a visit to Pyongyang in December by U.S. envoy Stephen Bosworth. Thursday, a United Nations special envoy met North Korea's deputy leader, Kim Yong Nam, in Pyongyang, as part of the international effort to bring North Korea back to disarmament talks.

IRAQ: Campaigning has officially begun in Iraq for the upcoming March 7 general election. The first official campaign posters were plastered across Baghdad Friday. But tensions are already heightened in Iraq over the decision to ban a number of Sunni candidates from running for office because of alleged ties to late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party. Thursday, an Iraqi judicial panel rejected appeals from the majority of candidates who have been banned. Only 28 of 177 people who appealed their disqualification will be allowed to run on March 7.

SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka's Supreme Court has decided to allow supporters of defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka to pursue an appeal challenging his arrest. The court cleared the way Friday for a hearing on the issue on February 23. The court also ordered the government to allow Fonseka to have access to medicine and visiting family members. The court petition was filed by the former army chief's wife (Anoma Fonseka) after authorities arrested Fonseka Monday on charges of conspiring against the government. Meanwhile, political opposition leader Ranil Wickremesighe met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa Friday in an effort to secure Fonseka's release.

PAKISTAN: Two suicide bombers struck outside a police training facility in northwestern Pakistan Thursday, killing 15 people, including eight policemen, and wounding at least 30 others. Local officials say the blasts occurred in the town of Bannu. The town's police chief is among the wounded. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Pakistani militants have been targeting local security forces and government institutions. Thursday's attacks occurred as U.S. national security adviser Jim Jones led a delegation that held talks with President Asif Ali Zardari and other officials in Islamabad.

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