- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009


Goal reached for Chinese visitors

TAIPEI | Taiwan has reached its goal of hosting 3,000 Chinese tourists a day as ties between the two rivals continue to strengthen, the government said Sunday.

Chinese tourist arrivals averaged 3,013 people per day so far this month, compared with the daily average of 580 over the past eight months, the Immigration Agency said on its Web site. China officially lifted a ban on tourist travel to Taiwan in July.

Since taking office in May, Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has sought to improve relations with Beijing. Attracting Chinese tourists has been a crucial part of his policy of using close economic ties to help boost the island’s sputtering economy.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949. China stills claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island.


Gunment kidnap three aid workers

MOGADISHU | Gunmen kidnapped three aid workers, thought to include a Belgian and a Dane, in central Somalia on Sunday, a local elder and another relief worker said.

Attacks on humanitarian workers in Somalia, normally blamed on hardline Islamist rebels and clan militia, have reduced the ability of relief agencies to respond to a humanitarian crisis that many say is the continent’s most acute.

The kidnappings do not appear related to piracy.


Suspect arrested in al-Hariri killing

DUBAI | A main suspect in the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri has been arrested in the United Arab Emirates, an Arab television station said Sunday.

UAE-based Al Arabiya said Mohammed Zuhair al-Siddiq was arrested in the emirate of Sharjah and was being held by UAE security authorities. It gave no more details.

Mr. al-Hariri and 22 other people were killed in a car bomb blast in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005, that sparked an international outcry.


Authorities seek more policemen

KABUL | Afghanistan may double its 82,000-strong police force and will train 15,000 new recruits in time for the Aug. 20 presidential election, the interior minister said Sunday.

More than 70,000 foreign troops are based in Afghanistan fighting a resurgent Taliban, mainly in the south and east.

Military commanders recognize foreign troops can ultimately only buy time before the Afghan army and police force are expanded. The United States will send 4,000 police trainers to Afghanistan this year.

Interior Minister Hanif Atmar said at a news conference that Afghan authorities had asked international donors to approve a “strategic increase” in the size of the force.


Panda center to be built

BEIJING | China will begin building a panda breeding center next month to replace a world-famous preserve badly damaged in last year’s devastating earthquake in southwestern Sichuan province, state media reported Sunday.

The new facility will be used for more than $200 million in projects to preserve the endangered species, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The world-famous Wolong Panda Breeding Center, near Sichuan’s capital of Chengdu, was nearly destroyed in the May 12 earthquake, which left 90,000 people dead or missing.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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