- - Tuesday, January 3, 2012

CHINA

U.S. envoy visits China after Kim Jong-il’s death

BEIJING — The United States’ top diplomat for Asia arrived Tuesday in China on a tour that will also take him to South Korea and Japan to discuss developments in North Korea after the death of Kim Jong-il.

Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, is visiting the region for discussions on how to restart nuclear and food aid talks with North Korea as well as U.S. rapprochement with Myanmar, also called Burma.

Mr. Campbell is the most-senior U.S. official to visit the region since Kim’s death and succession by his youngest son, Kim Jong-un. He also will visit Seoul and Tokyo on his trip, which ends Saturday.

BRAZIL

Employers accused of bondage conditions

SAO PAULO — Nearly 300 employers in South America’s biggest country submit workers to slavelike conditions, Brazil’s Labor Ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry said in a statement that its “dirty list” increased by 52 and now has a total of 294 employers, from big to small.

Until they stop the practice, the companies won’t be able to obtain credit from government and private banks.

Their products also will be boycotted by companies that have signed the National Slave Labor Eradication Pact, which according to local media represents 25 percent of Brazil’s Gross Domestic Product.

The dirty list was created in 2005 and is updated twice a year. To be taken off the list, an employer must pay a series of fines and unpaid labor-related taxes.

TURKEY

Ex-president indicted for 1980 coup

ANKARA — The ailing, 94-year-old former Turkish president who came to power in a 1980 military coup could face life imprisonment for the military takeover, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Kenan Evren and former air force commander Tahsin Sahinkaya are charged with crimes against the state, said prosecutor Huseyin Gorusen. They face life in prison if convicted.

The court will have to decide whether to accept the indictment and order a trial.

Mr. Evren, as military chief of staff, led the 1980 coup before becoming Turkey’s president from 1982 to 1989. He was questioned by Mr. Gorusen in June after constitutional amendments lifted the coup leaders’ immunity and allowed them to be brought to trial.

The move comes as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted government has initiated negotiations with opposition parties to rewrite the coup-era constitution ordered by Mr. Evren.

MYANMAR

Clemency falls short of expectations

YANGON — Myanmar began releasing some prisoners on Tuesday, but activists and relatives said a government clemency fell short of national reconciliation promises and showed that political prisoners may remain behind bars for a long time.

President Thein Sein signed a clemency order on Monday marking this week’s 64th anniversary of independence. He said the sentence reductions were “for the sake of state peace and stability” and on “humanitarian grounds.”

Under the order, death sentences will be commuted to life imprisonment, and prisoners serving more than 30 years will have their sentences cut to 30 years.

Those serving 20 to 30 years will have their terms reduced to 20 years, while those with less than 20 years will have their sentences cut by one-fourth.

Most political prisoners are serving long terms and will remain in prison.

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban strikes deal with Qatar on office there

KABUL — Afghan Taliban fighters said Tuesday they have reached a preliminary deal with the Persian Gulf state of Qatar to open a liaison office there, in what could be a step toward formal peace talks to end more than a decade of war.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid indicated the liaison office will conduct negotiations with the international community but not with the Afghan government - a condition that President Hamid Karzai has indicated he would reject. Mr. Mujahid did not say when it would open.

The reported progress came as three bomb blasts rocked Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, killing 14.

For the U.S. and its allies, the idea of a Taliban political office in the Qatari capital of Doha has become the central element in efforts to draw the insurgents into peace talks.

MOROCCO

Morocco installs Islamist-led government

RABAT — The Moroccan state news agency reported that the king has accepted the Cabinet proposed by the country’s new prime minister.

The Islamist Justice and Development Party took 11 of 31 Cabinet posts, including foreign affairs, justice, and transportation and communication.

The party has long been in the opposition and won the most votes in November’s election on a platform to combat corruption and bring social justice.

A new constitution gives Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane unprecedented powers, but the king holds final veto over any of his decisions.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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