- - Thursday, February 16, 2012

NORTH KOREA

Late leader gets military birthday tribute

PYONGYANG | Army trucks loaded with artillery rolled by the memorial palace for North Korea’s late leaders as Kim Jong-un presided over a military birthday commemoration for his father Thursday.

Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack in December, and North Koreans marked what would have been his 70th birthday by remembering him and showing support for his young son and successor.

Across Pyongyang, they bowed before Kim Jong-il’s portrait and laid single blossoms in his honor on the holiday now called Day of the Shining Star.

The Kim Jong-un ode “Footsteps” reverberated across the capital city all day, emphasizing the son’s inheritance of the family legacy bequeathed to him by his father and grandfather, North Korean founder Kim Il-sung.

The Kims have ruled North Korea since its inception in 1948 following the division of the Korean peninsula into the communist-backed north and the U.S.-allied south.

PAKISTAN

Afghan, Iranian leaders attend peace summit

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan on Thursday welcomed the leaders of Afghanistan and Iran for a regional summit at a key juncture in peace efforts with the Taliban and amid rising tensions between Tehran and Israel.

Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flew into Islamabad in the afternoon for a formal summit meeting scheduled on Friday, to be followed by a joint news conference, Pakistani officials said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived earlier in the day for a series of talks with the government and the military on his second visit in nine months.

His office said separate talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani would focus on expanding relations, economic ties and “enhanced cooperation” on ending 10 years of war in Afghanistan.

Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani and senior government ministers also were present, officials said.

Mr. Karzai termed Pakistan’s support as “critical to the success” of an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process and the reconciliation.

MALDIVES

Former leader given 4 days to join government

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA | The new leader of the Maldives gave the ex-president’s party four days on Thursday to decide whether to join a coalition government, hoping the move would end long-standing political divisions.

The Indian Ocean island nation, which is economically reliant on high-end tourism, has been in political turmoil since then-President Mohamed Nasheed ordered a top judge arrested earlier this year and began losing support from the security forces.

He was replaced last week by former Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who is forming a coalition government to stabilize the country ahead of presidential elections due next year.

On Thursday, Mr. Hassan sent a letter to Mr. Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, asking the party to inform the government of its decision before Monday, the president’s website said.

In the letter, Mr. Hassan “stressed the need to resolve the existing political rifts and to find a way forward” and hoped that “that his proposition would bring an end to the long standing divisions that had existed in the country.”

Mr. Nasheed’s party had no immediate comment to the letter, but Nasheed rejected an earlier invitation. He insists early elections should be called and has angrily claimed he was ousted in a coup at gunpoint, accusations Mr. Hassan denies.

CHINA

Beijing mayor visits Taiwan amid protests

TAIPEI | Beijing’s mayor arrived in Taiwan Thursday amid protests from dozens of anti-China activists who labeled him a “human rights villain.”

Guo Jinlong, the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit the island since last month’s re-election of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, was flanked by about 200 policemen after he arrived at Taoyuan airport.

But the tight security cordon did not dissuade the Tibetan and Falun Gong protesters, who shouted anti-China slogans and unveiled protest banners at the airport’s arrival lobby.

Television images showed an emotional Tibetan activist being carried away by four policemen in uniform. He was later released.

The police also blocked dozens of members of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement outlawed by the Chinese authorities, who earlier in the day filed a lawsuit against Mr. Guo, denouncing him as a “human rights villain.”

• From wire dispatches and staff reports