- - Thursday, June 28, 2012

PESHAWAR — A government official said a roadside bomb hit a paramilitary convoy in northwestern Pakistan, killing seven soldiers.

Iqbal Khan said the attack occurred as the convoy passed through a bazaar in Bara, a town in the Khyber tribal area. Two other soldiers were wounded in the Thursday attack.

Mr. Khan is a member of Khyber’s political administration.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the military is battling the Pakistani Taliban and their allies in Khyber.


Senate rejects bill to deport asylum seekers

CANBERRA — Senators on Thursday rejected legislation that would have let Australia deport asylum seekers to another country as a way of discouraging them from attempting long, dangerous boat journeys.

The legislation scraped through the House of Representatives by a 74-72 vote late Wednesday after six hours of passionate debate, amplified by two deadly capsizings of boats filled with Australia-bound migrants in the past week.

But the Senate rejected the bill by a vote of 39-29 after sometimes tearful arguments.

Four people are thought to have died and 130 were rescued from a boat that capsized Wednesday, but more than 90 people are believed to have died in a capsizing last week midway between Australia’s Christmas Island and Indonesia.

The legislation would have let the government deport boat arrivals to another country in Southeast Asia or the Pacific. While many lawmakers see that as the best option for stopping such smuggling attempts, they disagree on where the asylum seekers should be sent.

They currently stay on Christmas Island while their asylum claims are assessed, although many have been transferred to the Australian mainland in recent months because of overcrowding at the island detention facilities.


Afghans court business for postwar stability

NEW DELHI — Afghan officials are appealing for corporate investment as they look to stabilize their country after more than a decade of war.

A delegation led by Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul courted companies based in the U.S., Europe, India, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia and other countries at a conference Thursday in New Delhi.

Mr. Rassoul told hundreds of company representatives that Afghanistan plans “to gradually reduce our reliance on international assistance through private-sector-led growth.”

More than 90 percent of Afghanistan’s 2011 budget was funded by donations.

Mr. Rassoul played down security concerns for after NATO’s planned military drawdown in 2014, saying volatile regions represent a small part of the resource-rich country.


Myanmar signs U.N. pact to ban child soldiers

YANGON — Myanmar has signed an agreement with the United Nations to ban the recruitment of child soldiers and demobilize those already serving.

The Southeast Asian nation is one of about two dozen countries worldwide found by the United Nations to violate international law on the rights of children in armed conflicts.

The U.N. office in Yangon said in a press release Thursday that the agreement resulted from years of negotiations with a task force on child soldiers comprising U.N. agencies along with the private groups World Vision and Save the Children.

Ramesh Shrestha, task force co-chairman of UNICEF, said at Wednesday’s signing that supporting the demobilized youths with education and jobs is a key task.

The United Nations says seven ethnic guerrilla armies in Myanmar also use child soldiers.


Mongolians vote on spreading wealth

ULAN BATOR — Mongolians traveled by foot, car and horse to vote for a new legislature Thursday in an election that centered on better spreading the benefits of Mongolia’s mining boom across the vast and still largely poor country.

A poll this month by the private, unaffiliated Sant Maral Foundation and commentators showed the opposition Democratic Party with a slight edge over the ruling Mongolian People’s Party, though neither had the support to win an outright majority in the 76-seat parliament.

The main parties have offered variations on promises to use mining revenue to boost pensions, build needed infrastructure, subsidize local industries and otherwise enrich Mongolians.

The boom already has brought billions of dollars in investment to extract coal, copper, gold and other minerals and made Mongolia the world’s fastest-growing economy last year.

If properly spent, the money could reverse the fortunes of the remote Alaska-sized country, which is landlocked between China and Russia and where a third of its 2.8 million people live in poverty.


Defector claims South agents tricked her

PYONGYANG — A North Korean woman said she was tricked into defecting to South Korea by agents who offered to arrange a reunion with her long-lost father.

Pak Jong-suk’s account made to local and foreign reporters in Pyongyang on Thursday could not be independently confirmed. The Unification Ministry in Seoul said it is investigating.

The U.S. State Department accuses North Korea of harshly punishing defectors if they are repatriated. Pyongyang denies rights abuses.

Ms. Pak said the agents promised a meeting in China but instead took her to South Korea, where her father had been living since the Korean War.

She said she chose to return home to North Korea.

Seoul says more than 23,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the war ended in an armistice in 1953.


Governor says rival tried to kill him

MANILA — A Philippine governor said Thursday that his political rival and the main suspect in the 2009 election-related killings of 57 people tried to kill him and his brothers months before the massacre, calling him “powerful, influential and violent.”

Esmael Mangudadatu, governor of southern Maguindanao province, testified at the massacre trial that his predecessor, Andal Ampatuan Sr., sent hundreds of government soldiers, police and civilian militia to attack his brother’s residence in the restive region.

About four months after the failed attack, Mr. Ampatuan reportedly ordered gunmen to kill 57 people, including Mr. Mangudadatu’s wife, who were en route to contest local elections.

Mr. Ampatuan, his sons and alleged gunmen are among 103 suspects in the long-running trial, the largest in recent Philippine history. They have denied the murder charges.

Mr. Mangudadatu’s wife, relatives and supporters, along with 31 media workers, were killed Nov. 23, 2009, after they were stopped on a highway by suspected armed followers of Mr. Ampatuan, mowed down and buried in mass graves.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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