- - Thursday, May 3, 2012

MYANMAR

BANGKOK — Myanmar’s army is poised for a major assault on Kachin minority rebels, the guerrilla group said Thursday, despite calls for an end to the violence that has cast a shadow over the new regime’s reforms.

About 2,000 government forces have moved into place around the northern town of Laiza, a key rebel stronghold, said an official for the Kachin Independence Army.

The apparent troop build-up follows calls by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday for an end to fighting, which has forced thousands to flee into neighboring China.

“They are preparing to attack the [rebel] base in Laiza. … They have reinforced a lot of troops and sent a lot of artillery but have not attacked yet,” the official said, claiming that rebel forces number about 3,000.

Civil war has gripped parts of Myanmar since independence in 1948.

But Myanmar’s government has agreed to cease-fires with several ethnic rebel groups as part of reforms since coming to power last year, a move also aimed at an international community that links eased sanctions with the peace process.

In January, President Thein Sein’s government told the military to halt all offensives in ethnic minority conflict zones.

Yet violence in the Kachin area, reignited after a 17-year cease-fire was shattered last year, has continued to rage, prompting fears it could obstruct national peace.

AFGHANISTAN

Pakistani arrested in attempted truck bombing

KABUL — Afghanistan’s intelligence agency prevented a large terrorist attack, arresting a Pakistani citizen driving a truck packed with explosives, according to a statement Thursday.

The agency said the man was arrested on a main road in Kabul’s east. It said the man was going to use the truck bomb in a suicide attack, but it was unclear if the attack was imminent.

The agency did not say what the suspected target was. It pledged to release more details as they became available.

The arrest came a day after a suicide attack on the same road killed seven people. In that attack, one militant detonated his car bomb outside a compound where foreigners live, while two other attackers dressed as women fought their way inside before being killed.

PHILIPPINES

Wall erected to obscure slums during conference

MANILA — Delegates attending an international conference in the Philippines capital may not see what they came to discuss: abject poverty.

A makeshift, temporary wall has been erected across a bridge on a road from the airport to downtown Manila that hides a sprawling slum along a garbage-strewn creek.

Presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang defended the wall’s installation. “Any country will do a little fixing up before a guest comes,” he said Thursday

He expressed hope that this week’s annual meeting of Asian Development Bank board of governors, which includes finance ministers and senior officials from 67 member states, will show the Philippines is open for business.

The lending institution, which is headquartered in its own walled compound in Manila, aims to cut poverty in the Asia-Pacific region.

AUSTRALIA

U.S. won’t pressure allies on cyberthreat companies

CANBERRA — Washington will not pressure its allies to avoid certain telecommunication companies because of cybersecurity concerns, a U.S. official said Thursday amid controversy over Australia’s banning of Chinese giant Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. from working on a national broadband network.

Beijing’s relations with Western governments have been strained by complaints about hacking traced to China that is aimed at oil, technology and other companies.

A U.S. congressional panel has said it will investigate whether allowing Huawei and other Chinese makers of telecom gear to expand in the United States might aid Chinese spying.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano visited Australia on Thursday to sign bilateral agreements, including ones on information sharing.

The U.S. and Australia announced plans in September to include cybersecurity in their 61-year-old defense alliance, the first time Washington has done that with a partner outside NATO.

Ms. Napolitano told the Associated Press she could not comment on media speculation that the U.S. had suggested Australia’s Huawei ban during President Obama’s visit to Australia in November.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports