- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

VIETNAM
Economy described as on track
HANOI The Vietnamese economy achieved its targets in several key sectors in 2002 for the first time since the Asian economic crisis of 1997, prompting cautious optimism for the future among local and foreign observers.
According to official statistics, Vietnam posted economic growth of 7 percent in 2002, compared with 6.7 percent in the previous year. In 1997, growth slowed to 5.5 percent, in a period when its Asian neighbors were suffering the full force of the regional crisis.
Vietnamese economists said the country's performance placed it second in Asia's growth ranks, behind China's estimated expansion of 8 percent last year.

PHILIPPINES
Minister resigns over corruption charges
MANILA Philippine Justice Secretary Hernando Perez, who has been on leave since November when he was accused of corruption, has resigned, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's office said yesterday.
In a statement, the presidential palace said Mrs. Arroyo accepted his resignation.
Mr. Perez has been on leave since he was accused of corruption by Congressman Mark Jimenez, who has since been extradited to the United States to face charges of fraud and illegal election contributions. Mr. Perez was due to return to his post on Dec. 26, but Mrs. Arroyo extended the leave. He has denied any wrongdoing and has in turn filed a civil suit against Mr. Jimenez.

CAMBODIA
Budget concerns cancel election
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia Cambodia will skip Senate elections next year because of financial constraints and extend the current upper house's mandate, lawmakers said yesterday.
The announcement by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, president of Cambodia's National Assembly or lower house of parliament, was expected to raise concerns about the country's democratic principles.
Prince Ranariddh said that the government's budget had been stretched too thin by local elections last year and preparations for general elections this July.

PHILIPPINES
Military captures Abu Sayyaf leader
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines The Philippine military said yesterday it had captured a leader of the Abu Sayyaf, a gang of Muslim radicals linked by the United States to the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden.
Merang Abante, a middle-ranking leader of the Abu Sayyaf carrying a $18,500 bounty on his head, was apprehended near the southern city of Zamboanga, Armed Forces Southern Command Chief Lt. Gen. Narciso Abaya told reporters.
The Abu Sayyaf which claims to be fighting for a separate Islamic state in the south of this predominantly Catholic country, but is mainly notorious for kidnappings has bases on the islands of Basilan and Jolo.

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