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At the moment, records of phone calls and text messages are kept up to 12 months by telecommunications companies in compliance with a European Union anti-terrorism directive.

But a new Home Office proposal would require Internet-service providers and telecommunications companies to hand over records containing billions of e-mails as well as Internet usage and voice-over-Internet calls, media reports said yesterday.

Police and security services would be able to have access to the information after seeking permission from the courts.

AFGHANISTAN

NATO soldier, interpreter killed

KABUL — A NATO soldier and an interpreter were killed in a blast in central Afghanistan yesterday, the alliance’s International Security Assistance Force said.

Two other ISAF soldiers were wounded in the blast in the province of Ghazni, it said in a statement.

The 40-nation force does not give the nationalities of its casualties. Most of the international troops in Ghazni are U.S. nationals.

Meanwhile, a top Afghan official said the government will decide when foreign troops will leave the country, but Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta added they will be needed until Afghan security forces can stand on their own feet.

CHINA

Democracy seen key to Beijing relations

TAIPEI — Taiwan’s new president yesterday tied improved political relations with rival China to Beijing’s progress toward democracy — a condition the communist superpower may have trouble meeting.

The comments by Ma Ying-jeou in his inaugural address took place on a day of dramatic developments in Taipei, as prosecutors announced they were launching a corruption probe into outgoing President Chen Shui-bian’s handling of a special presidential fund.

In his inaugural address, the new leader reaffirmed the themes of his presidential campaign — a desire for greater economic engagement with Beijing without renouncing Taiwan’s sovereignty.

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