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Briefly: Cost doubles for cleanup at Fukushima nuclear plant

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Japan

TOKYO — The Japanese operator of the nuclear power plant devastated in last year's disasters is seeking more government financial support, saying the cost of the cleanup could be double the $62.5 billion allocated so far.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. made the appeal in a management "action plan" it presented Wednesday.

Tepco, its finances wrecked by the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in northeastern Japan and the closures of other nuclear plants, has received a $12.5 billion bailout and was put under government ownership.

Pressed repeatedly for an estimate of exactly how much it will cost to decommission the crippled plant and pay costs for decontamination and damages, Tepco President Naomi Hirose said it was impossible to know.

In a statement, the company outlined two potential scenarios, one involving costs of some $125 billion that it said would make it difficult for Tepco to raise funding from private lenders and oblige it to seek further government financial support.

The massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 severely damaged four reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant north of Tokyo, knocking out cooling systems and triggering radiation leaks. Tens of thousands of people fled their homes in the world's worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.

China

No evidence that murdered British man was a spy

BEIJING — A top Chinese leader said Thursday that there is no evidence the British businessman whose murder became part of a major political scandal was a spy.

Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang, who was put in charge of the megacity of Chongqing in the scandal's wake, also rejected the notion that his predecessor, the now-purged leader Bo Xilai, had left any positive legacy in his administration of the city.

Responding to reporters' questions, Mr. Zhang belittled what was once heralded by the Chinese media as the "Chongqing Model" -- a code phrase for the populist crime-fighting and social policies that made Mr. Bo beloved with his region's poor.

Mr. Bo has been accused of violations ranging from corruption to involvement in covering up his wife's role in the murder of Neil Heywood. Mr. Zhang said he did not know when Mr. Bo would be put on trial.

Pakistan

Suicide bomber kills3 paramilitary officers

KARACHI — A suicide bomber smashed a truck packed with explosives into housing for a paramilitary force protecting Pakistan's largest city Thursday, killing three officers in the explosion that sent a large plume of smoke into the sky, officials said.

The blast underlined deteriorating security in Karachi, the sprawling port city of 18 million people that is considered the economic heart of Pakistan. Violence has escalated in recent years in the city, as armed groups fight for control of land and resources, and terrorists groups, including the Taliban, have used the chaos to consolidate their foothold.

Three security personnel were killed and 20 were wounded in Thursday's attack, said a spokesman for the Rangers, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The Rangers are a paramilitary force that is tasked with helping Karachi police maintain security in the city.

The spokesman said the blast would not deter the Rangers from pursuing operations against militants in the city.

Sri Lanka

Elections promised in former war zone

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka's president promised Thursday to hold provincial council elections next year in the island nation's former northern war zone.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa's pledge comes amid international criticism that he has failed to devolve power to the northern region since the nation's quarter-century civil war ended in 2009. The majority of the region's population are minority ethnic Tamils.

While presenting the government's annual budget in parliament Thursday, Mr. Rajapaksa said the government remained "firmly committed to conduct [northern] provincial council elections next year, to facilitate democratic representation to promote peace and development."

The war ended after government forces defeated the Tamil Tiger rebels, who were fighting to create an independent Tamil state in the country's north and east.

India

Britain talks trade, terrorism and defense

NEW DELHI — British Foreign Secretary William Hague met with top officials in the Indian capital Thursday to discuss ways to increase trade and investment and to tackle other issues, including terrorism, cybersecurity and defense.

"We discussed a lot of trade investment cooperation -- international, bilateral, multilateral -- and I think that's how we see our relationship" in the future, Indian Foreign Minister Salma Khurshid told reporters after meeting with Mr. Hague.

"Aid is the past and trade is the future," he said.

India and Britain also agreed to strengthen cooperation on counterterrorism and cybersecurity, according to a joint statement.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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