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THAILAND - PROTESTS: Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have gathered in the Thai capital to hold demonstrations aimed at toppling the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajhiva. The protesters began their rally Sunday, and say they will continue their peaceful demonstration in Bangkok for several days. Dressed in red shirts, the demonstrators have been arriving in the city for days, waving flags and shouting slogans. Many are backers of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup. Mr. Thaksin currently lives in Dubai but is still popular among Thailand's poor and rural population. His supporters have been demanding new elections, which they hope will return him to power. They have set a Monday deadline for their demands to be met. Prime Minister Abhisit said Sunday he has no intention of stepping down or dissolving parliament. He also said the government has no plans to crack down on protesters. Fifty thousand security forces have mobilized in Bangkok to maintain order.
CHINA POL: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says he will not be bullied into

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changing China's exchange rate. The Chinese leader told reporters at a news conference following the end of China's annual parliament meeting that his country will not yield to external pressure for yuan exchange rate reform.
U.S. President Barack Obama last week urged Beijing to embrace a "market oriented" exchange rate for its currency to help rebalance the global economy.
The Obama administration has accused Beijing of keeping the yuan artificially undervalued to make Chinese products cheaper on the global market.
CHINA - US: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says the U.S. is responsible for the strained relations between Beijing and Washington. Mr. Wen said Sunday the U.S. violated Beijing's sovereignty with a multi-billion dollar arms deal with Taiwan and the Dalai Lama's February visit to the White House. Wen, speaking with reporters at the end of the country's annual legislative session, said the two moves had caused "serious disturbances" in China-U.S. relations.
AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a series of suicide bombings that rocked the southern city of Kandahar Saturday, killing at least 33 people, including 10 people who were attending a wedding. Officials say about 50 people were wounded.

The half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the largest explosion took place in front of the city's main prison.

Ahmad Wali Karzai, who heads Kandahar's provincial council, said officials believe the main objective of the Saturday night bombings was to free prisoners.

Media reports said that a Taliban Web site called Saturday's bombings a message for NATO commanders. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, says his next goal is to retake Kandahar, the Taliban's traditional stronghold.
US - RUSSIA ARMS: The United States and Russia are making progress on a new nuclear disarmament treaty. U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev spoke by phone Saturday about a deal to reduce each country's arsenal of nuclear weapons. Negotiations started almost a year ago, but a White House spokesman said the two leaders had a "good conversation" and were committed to reaching a deal soon. Russian officials at the Kremlin said it is now possible to talk about a firm date for signing a treaty.
The potential agreement would replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, which expired in December. Talks had been hung up on how to verify the arms cuts and U.S. plans for a missile defense system in Europe.
Russia opposes the missile plan.
OBAMA - NOBEL PRIZE MONEY: U.S. President Barak Obama has designated 10 charities to receive the $1.4 million award money that came with the Nobel Prize he received last year. In a statement issued by the White House this week, the president named 10 organizations, many of them education groups, that will receive a share of the money. Mr. Obama said the organizations do extraordinary work with students, veterans and countless others in the United States and abroad. The president designated the largest amount, $250,000, to Fisher House, a non-profit organization that provides housing for families of patients receiving care at military and veterans medical centers. Another $200,000 is going to the Clinton-Bush Haiti fund, for long-term relief efforts following that nation's devastating earthquake.
US - ISRAEL SETTLEMENTS: Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to calm tensions concerning plans for an expansion of a Jewish settlement in disputed East Jerusalem announced during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Mr. Netanyahu told Cabinet members Sunday to "not get carried away," as he discussed the strain in relations with Washington. The settlement plan calls for building 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of a future state. Mr. Netanyahu said the announcement by the Interior Ministry was made without his knowledge, and the timing was not intentional. He apologized to Biden and expressed hope the matter was closed.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Israel's housing plan and the timing of its announcement were "insulting" to the United States, and sent "deeply negative signals" for the Middle East peace process.

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