- - Thursday, January 12, 2012

PAKISTAN

President Zardari takes trip as tensions rise

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan’s president left the country Thursday for what was described as a one-day private visit to Dubai, officials said during a deepening crisis between the government and the powerful military.

Early last month, President Asif Ali Zardari traveled to Dubai for medical treatment, triggering rumors that he was either being pushed out by the army or was fleeing an attempted coup.

He returned after a few weeks, but tensions have continued to soar, with critics gleefully predicting the government’s imminent downfall.

The officials said the trip is unconnected to the crisis. They said the president would attend a wedding in Dubai and would be back Friday.

JAPAN

Tokyo vows to reduce Iranian oil imports

TOKYO | Japan pledged Thursday to buy less Iranian oil, boosting the U.S. campaign to sanction Iran over its nuclear program even as China and Turkey react coolly to the effort.

Iran’s “nuclear development problem can’t be ignored by the world, so from that perspective we understand the U.S. actions,” Finance Minister Jun Azumi told reporters after meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who was visiting Tokyo after two days in Beijing.

Japan imports about 10 percent of its oil from Iran, Mr. Azumi said.

“We plan to start reducing this 10 percent share as soon as possible in an orderly manner,” he said.

Japan’s quick agreement contrasts with China’s public silence on the matter during Mr. Geithner’s visit.

PAKISTAN

U.S. missile kills 4 militants near Afghanistan

PESHAWAR | Pakistani intelligence officials said an American missile strike close to the Afghan border killed four foreign Islamists.

The officials said the militants were traveling in a car Thursday in the North Waziristan region when the missile hit. They didn’t list their nationalities.

The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters on the record.

It was the second such drone strike in three days.

MALAYSIA

Opposition leader’s acquittal presses premier for elections

KUALA LUMPUR | Prime Minister Najib Razak said he hopes to call elections soon, a report said Thursday, as speculation over a poll date heats up after the court acquittal of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

In an interview with Dow Jones Newswires, Mr. Najib said he would not call a general election until he had delivered on his recent promise to introduce democratic reforms.

Mr. Najib must call polls by the spring of 2013, but speculation mounted this week that he might call them within months - before the opposition is able to organize after its leader’s court victory Monday.

Mr. Anwar, who was ousted as deputy prime minister in a 1998 power struggle, has fought for years to unseat the ruling coalition he was once poised to lead and which has governed Malaysia since 1957 independence from Britain.

This week, was cleared of charges that he had sodomized a young aide in 2008. Mr. Anwar had said the case was intended to remove him from the political scene. Sodomy is punishable by prison in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

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