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PAKISTAN

Afghanistan warned after signing pact with India

ISLAMABADPakistan warned Afghanistan to behave responsibly Thursday following Kabul’s move to sign a strategic pact with Islamabad’s archenemy, India, at a particularly sensitive time in relations between the two countries.

Afghanistan’s interior minister recently accused Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the ISI, of being involved in last month’s suicide bombing in Kabul that killed former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani — an allegation denied by Pakistan.

Rabbani was working as chief envoy in peace talks with the Taliban.

“At this defining stage when challenges have multiplied, as have the opportunities, it is our expectation that everyone, especially those in position of authority in Afghanistan, will demonstrate requisite maturity and responsibility,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua told reporters.

“This is no time for point-scoring, playing politics or grandstanding,” she said in her weekly news briefing.

Her comments seemed more confrontational than Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s statement Wednesday that Afghanistan and India have the right to maintain bilateral relations as sovereign nations.

His comments were reported by the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan.

The agreement, which was signed Tuesday, outlined areas of common concern including trade, economic expansion, education, security and politics. It was the first of its kind between Afghanistan and any country.

AFGHANISTAN

Afghans rally in Kabul, demand NATO leaves

KABUL — Hundreds of people marched through the streets of the Afghan capital Thursday demanding the immediate withdrawal of international military forces ahead of the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion.

The peaceful demonstration in downtown Kabul was meant to mark the Oct. 7 invasion of Afghanistan 10 years ago, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States.

The U.S. invasion came after Taliban leader Mullah Omar refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, purportedly because of his disbelief that the al Qaeda chief was responsible for the attacks and because it went against the Afghan tradition of hospitality and protection of guests.

U.S. forces killed bin Laden in a raid on his hide-out in Pakistan five months ago.

The demonstrators chanted “no to occupation,” and “Americans out” as they marched through the streets holding pictures of Afghans killed in violence. They later burned an American flag.

The demonstration was organized by a small, left-wing party.

No official events have been announced so far to mark the start of the war, neither by the government nor NATO.

THAILAND

Doctors Without Borders ending Thai operations

BANGKOK — The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders says it is ending its operations in Thailand after 35 years.

The group’s chief in Thailand, Denis Penoy, said Thursday that it is halting its activities because it could not reach agreement with the government on conditions under which it could provide medical care to illegal migrants.

Most of Thailand’s estimated 2 million unregistered migrants come from Myanmar, and their status prevents them from receiving proper health care.

Government spokeswoman Thitima Chaisaeng said she could not immediately comment because she was not familiar with the details of the group’s decision.

The group’s first activity in Thailand was helping Cambodians fleeing the Khmer Rouge in 1976.

JAPAN

Trial opens for powerbroker in political funding scandal

TOKYO — The behind-the-scenes powerbroker for Japan’s ruling party denied any wrongdoing Thursday as he went on trial in a political funding scandal that could undermine his influence and the struggling party’s unity.

Ichiro Ozawa, who engineered the Democratic Party of Japan’s rise to power in 2009, was charged this year with overseeing false accounting by his former aides in a murky 2004 land deal.

Prosecutors say that Mr. Ozawa was fully aware of the false bookkeeping by the three aides to cover up questionable funds used in the land deal, and that he authorized the false entry of the transaction in an annual political funds report to the government.

Mr. Ozawa, 69, told the Tokyo District Court on Thursday that he is not guilty.

The three former aides were convicted last month and have appealed.

The scandal has damaged Mr. Ozawa’s ambitions to become prime minister, though he still wields considerable influence within the party.

The trial is being closely watched in Japan, where Mr. Ozawa generally has a negative public image as an old-style wheeler-dealer. More than 2,100 people lined up Thursday for 49 seats in court.

The trial is likely to take months, with a ruling expected in April.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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