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World Briefs

- - Monday, November 28, 2011

CHINA

China, Myanmar vow deeper ties before Clinton visit

BEIJING — China's leader-in-waiting, Vice President Xi Jinping, met Myanmar's military chief on Monday and pledged stronger ties, days before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton starts a historic trip to the closed state.

Mrs. Clinton will become the most senior U.S. official to visit Myanmar in more than 50 years when she arrives Wednesday on a trip seen as a bid to advance U.S. priorities in a country that has long enjoyed close ties to China.

Mr. Xi proposed that the nations' militaries "enhance exchange and deepen cooperation" when he met the commander-in-chief of Myanmar's armed forces, Min Aung Hlaing, in Beijing, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

"The friendship, forged by leaders of the older generations, has endured changes in the international arena," Xinhua quoted Mr. Xi as saying.

"China will work with Myanmar to further bolster the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation," added Mr. Xi, who is widely expected to take over from President Hu Jintao in 2013.

Myanmar and China have long been allies, although the relationship is complicated, with some in the Southeast Asian nation resentful of Beijing's overwhelming economic influence and historic border conflicts.

Since last year, Myanmar has held elections and freed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, and recently defied China by shutting down work on an unpopular dam that would supply power across the border.

PAKISTAN

NATO raid undercuts efforts at rapprochement

ISLAMABAD — NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers came just as the difficult relationship between the U.S. and Pakistani militaries was showing signs of improvement.

Only hours earlier, Marine Gen. John Allen, the coalition's top commander in Afghanistan, and Pakistani army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani concluded a meeting that sought to find common ground, a senior U.S. official told the Associated Press.

The official said the two men discussed areas of cooperation and "basically what we could do for each other."

Now, Gen. Kayani is under renewed pressure from his rank and file, intelligence sharing has stopped, and Pakistan has withdrawn its offer to nudge the Afghan Taliban to the negotiation table.

On its website, the U.S. Embassy warned of possible retaliation against Americans and said some U.S. government personnel outside Islamabad were being recalled to the capital as a precaution.

SOMALIA

Al-Shabab militants ban aid groups, U.N. agencies

MOGADISHU — The Somali militant group al-Shabab on Monday banned 16 aid groups - including a half dozen U.N. agencies - from central and southern Somalia, a decision likely to harm Somalis already suffering from drought and famine.

The banning of the aid groups falls in line with the group's skeptical view of the outside world, but it will worsen the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of Somalis who have come to depend on aid in the Horn of Africa country's worst famine since 1991-92.

A year without rain wiped out crops and animal herds in southern Somalia, killing tens of thousands of people in the past six months and forcing tens of thousands more to flee as refugees.

The al Qaeda-linked militant group's decision seemed to be rooted in the belief that aid groups are serving as spies for outside countries or as vehicles to undermine support for al-Shabab's harsh and strict interpretation of Islam.

SLOVAK REPUBLIC

Doctors at 15 hospitals resign because of low pay

BRATISLAVA — Slovakia declared a state of emergency Monday in more than a dozen hospitals to ensure that health care is not compromised after thousands of doctors resigned from public hospitals over low pay.

Prime Minister Iveta Radicova said the measures involve 15 hospitals across the country, including two clinics in the capital, Bratislava.

About 2,000 doctors in state-run hospitals have handed in their resignations, effective Thursday, if their demands for higher pay are not met. More than 7,000 doctors work in Slovak hospitals.

KUWAIT

Thousands demand emir dissolve parliament

KUWAIT CITY — Tens of thousands of Kuwaitis rallied Monday, calling for parliament to be dissolved and 24 opposition activists be released, only hours after the cabinet resigned.

Waving Kuwaiti flags and chanting "dissolve the parliament," the crowds at the opposition-sponsored protest celebrated after the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

Organizers estimated the crowd at 90,000, which would make it the largest-ever gathering in the oil-rich Gulf state with a native population of just 1.2 million.

Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah accepted the resignation of the premier and his cabinet because of a dispute between the government and opposition lawmakers.

From wire dispatches and staff reports