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China Cancels Deal to Buy Thai Rice Due to Graft Probe: Thai Minister

Bangkok - China has canceled a deal to buy 1.2 million tonnes of Thai rice after Thailand's anti-corruption agency launched investigations into a state rice-buying scheme, the Thai commerce minister said on Tuesday. The cancellation will add to the pressure on Thailand's government, which is struggling to secure funds for the rice scheme at a time when farmers who have not been paid are protesting in the pr ...

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US to Quietly Continue Troop Drawdown

WASHINGTON - The United States would quietly continue to draw down its soldiers from Afghanistan even as its troop level reached 34,000 in February, meeting the target set by President Barack Obama.Officials familiar with the development said the unannounced drawdown of troops was expected to continue till late this summer or the time it came to the number required to stay in Afghanistan post 2014, in case ...

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Karzai Inaugurates 3G Technology Project

KABUL - President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday inaugurated a much-awaited 3G mobile technology project and switch to GSM standards in Kabul. Speaking at a ceremony here, the president praised the nation for each step it took toward progress in the telecom sector. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) says the switch to GSM technology from the CDMA system will bring down call rates. The ...

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Kabul in Clandestine Talks with Taliban: NYT

KABUL - The Afghan government, which has been at odds with the United States over the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) during the last few months, is negotiating a clandestine peace deal with insurgents, says a media report. Clinging to its viewpoint, the Karzai administration has ruled out signing the long-term security agreement as long as his conditions for an end to raids on civilian homes are not per ...

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Karzai Playing With Fire over BSA: Rasmussen

KABUL - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says President Hamid Karzai’s public statements on the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States amount to playing with fire. “Personally, I have an excellent relationship with Karzai. But I also have to say that (making) such statements is something like playing with fire,” he said in an interview with the BBC News Night on Monday. The da ...

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Iraq Says Kills 57 Islamist Militants in Sunni Province

Baghdad - Iraqi troops and allied tribesmen killed 57 Islamist militants in Anbar province on Monday, the Defence Ministry said, in advance of a possible assault on the Sunni rebel-held city of Falluja. There was no independent verification of the toll among the militants, said to be members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a jihadi group also fighting in Syria. ISIL militants and other S ...

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Nelson Mandela Leaves $4 Million Estate to Family, Staff and ANC

Johannesburg - Former South African President Nelson Mandela has left his $4.1 million estate to family members, the ruling African National Congress, former staff and several local schools, according to a reading of his will on Monday. Deputy Chief Justice DikgangMoseneke told reporters the division of the estate - provisionally valued at 46 million rand ($4.1 million) excluding royalties - had been accept ...

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Ukraine’s YanukovichReturns to Work, Street Protests Go on

Kiev - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich returned to his desk on Monday after four days of sick leave, while the political opposition pressed for further concessions to end more than two months of street protests. "He is back at work," a presidential spokesman said. Yanukovich, caught in a tug of war between Russia and the West, is seeking a way out of a sometimes violent confrontation with protesters w ...

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U.N. Seeks $2 Billion for Sahel, Fears Donor Fatigue

Dakar- the United Nations appealed on Monday for more than $2 billion to feed and care for a record 20 million people across Africa's Sahel belt, but aid workers said they feared donor fatigue and a weak global recovery may prevent them from reaching the target. Conflicts in Mali, Nigeria, Sudan and Central African Republic have disrupted markets and caused food shortages across the savannah region, the U.N ...

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Al Qaeda Breaks Link with Syrian Militant Group ISIL

Damascus -      Al Qaeda's general command said on Monday it had no links with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in an apparent attempt to reassert its authority over fragmented Islamist fighters in Syria's civil war. After a month of rebel infighting, al Qaeda disavowed the increasingly independent ISIL in a move likely to bolster a rival Islamist group, the Nusra Front, as al Qaeda's offici ...

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Thai Protesters Move to Downtown Bangkok in Bid to Topple PM

Bangkok - Thai anti-government protesters who have been camped out in north Bangkok packed their tents and marched downtown on Monday as they consolidated efforts to topple Prime Minister YingluckShinawatra, a day after a disrupted general election. Some joined protest leader SuthepThaugsuban on foot and others followed in cars and six-wheel trucks as Thailand's long-running political conflict showed no sig ...

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UAE Summons Qatari Ambassador Over Muslim Cleric’s Comments

Abu Dhabi -    The United Arab Emirates summoned the Qatari ambassador over what it said were insults against the UAE made by a prominent cleric in a broadcast from Doha, state news agency WAM reported on Sunday. The diplomatic incident reflects growing splits between the two members of the Western-allied Gulf Cooperation Council in their approach to Islamists emboldened by the 2011 "Arab Spring" protests t ...

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Living Conditions in Afghanistan Deteriorate in Past 2 Years: CSO

KABUL - The living conditions of Afghans have deteriorated in the past two years, the Central Statistics Organization (CSO) said on Sunday. More than a third of Afghans, or 36 percent, is living in poverty while 25 percent are unemployed, according to the National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, conducted by the CSO in 34 provinces. The NRVA survey assesses 22 important aspects of life including poverty, ...

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EU Stresses Long-Term Aid to Afghanistan

KABUL - The European Union on Monday said it stood by the Afghan government in its efforts to create a healthy, equitable and prosperous society for its people. At the 2012 Tokyo Conference, EU held out a commitment to supporting development in Afghanistan until 2020 with focus on service-delivery programmes. A day earlier, the Central Statistical Organization of Afghanistan released its 2011-2012 National ...

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Karzai Urges NATO to Finalize Security Agreement

KABUL- President Hamid Karzai has urged NATO to finalise the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Afghanistan that would allow the coalition-led troops to remain in the country post-2014, the president's office said in a statement Sunday. Karzai decided during a National Security Council meeting that the agreement with the NATO should be finalised quickly, the statement said. "With regard to the national ...

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A Momentous Day for the Election Process

On Sunday, the presidential candidates officially started a two-month campaigning amidst sentiments of hopes and concerns to the future of the country. A handful of the candidates began their campaigning with lavish parties and speeches to their followers while activities of many other candidates were not very visible on the first day of the election campaigning. The electoral campaigns began with the first ...

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EU ‘Seriously Concerned’ About China Crackdown on Rights Activists

Brussels - The European Union is "seriously concerned" about China's treatment of human rights campaigners after a spate of trials and detentions, the bloc's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said. In response to a Chinese crackdown on prominent rights activists, Ashton called on Beijing to implement pledges it made to the U.N. Human Rights Council and release those imprisoned or detained for peaceful p ...

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Israeli Minister Attacks Kerry Over Boycott Warnings

Jerusalem - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is holding a gun to Israel's head in peace talks with the Palestinians by warning it could face international isolation if negotiations failed, a senior Israeli cabinet minister said on Sunday. The remarks by Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, followed recent accusations by Israel's defense minister tha ...

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UN Says More Than 733 Iraqis Killed in January

Baghdad - The United Nations said Saturday that at least 733 Iraqis were killed during violence in January, even when leaving out casualties from an embattled western province. The figures issued Saturday by the U.N.'s mission to Iraq show 618 civilians and 115 members of the security forces were killed in January. But the UNAMI statement excluded deaths from ongoing fighting in Anbar, due to problems in ve ...

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Ministry Pushes for Private Investment in Public Health

Kabul- At a meeting in Kabul on Sunday organized with the support of USAID, the Afghan Minister of Public Health (MoPH) looked to recruit private sector investment into hospitals, something Afghanistan severely lacks in quantity and quality. As part of the fundraising push, Public Health Minister Suraia Dali rolled-out plans to open three new hospitals: the 200-bed Jamhoryat Hospital, the 100-bed ShikhZahid ...

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