- The Washington Times - Friday, April 3, 2009


Prime minister quits as economy slumps

KUALA LUMPUR | Malaysia’s prime minister resigned Thursday after 5 1/2 years of largely ineffectual rule in a prelude to handing power to his deputy, who faces the mammoth task of rebuilding the economy and the ruling party’s shattered reputation.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi submitted his resignation to the king, the constitutional monarch, who is to swear in Najib Razak as the new prime minister Friday.

But the carefully planned transition hit a snag when all 81 opposition lawmakers in Parliament sent a petition to the king, asking him to delay Mr. Najib’s swearing-in until he has been cleared of allegations of corruption and links to a murder case.

Mr. Abdullah, 69, was pressured to step down after the ruling National Front coalition suffered its worst results ever in the March 2008 general elections. Critics in the coalition blamed the setback on Mr. Abdullah’s efforts to provide greater freedom of speech and to allow criticism of the government.


Khmer Rouge leader denies experiments

PHNOM PENH | A former top leader of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge has denied allegations by the regime’s prison chief that he was involved in ordering executions and medical experiments on prisoners.

A lawyer for Nuon Chea, the main ideologue for the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime, said Thursday that his client had no authority over S-21 prison and its commander, Kaing Guek Eav, who is being tried by a U.N.-assisted tribunal for war crimes, crimes against humanity, homicide and torture.

On Wednesday, a prosecutor read out a legal document naming Nuon Chea as the man who ordered Kaing Guek Eav to kill four groups of prisoners and authorized medical research on poisons to be carried out on prisoners. The document said Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, was the source of the information.


China wants France to shun Dalai Lama

BEIJING | China expects France to shun the Dalai Lama as part of a fence-mending deal reached this week, the latest sign of Beijing’s hardened determination to isolate Tibet’s exiled Buddhist leader.

The two countries announced Wednesday that they were restoring high-level contacts frozen by China after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with the Dalai Lama in Poland in December.

A joint news release said France pledged to reject Tibetan independence in “any form” - a reference to Beijing’s claim that the Dalai Lama is seeking to separate the Himalayan territory from China under the guise of autonomy.

While no direct mention was made of meetings with the Dalai Lama, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang indicated Thursday that Beijing took the French pledge to mean it would eschew high-level contacts.


Al Qaeda militants free Red Cross worker

MANILA | Al Qaeda-linked militants released one of three Red Cross hostages on Thursday after 10 weeks in jungle captivity on a southern island, officials said.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said on nationwide television that Mary Jean Lacaba, 37, of the Philippines was safe in the hands of a military commander and the vice governor of Jolo island, where the trio were threatened with beheading earlier this week.

Philippine Sen. Richard Gordon said that he had received information earlier Thursday that Italian Eugenio Vagni and Swiss Andreas Notter were seen alive, and that one of them was walking with a cane


Ban on begging to be enforced

DHAKA | Impoverished Bangladesh will strictly enforce a new ban on begging that aims to fully eliminate it within five years, an official said Thursday.

Mir Md. Aslam, a spokesman for the Ministry of Social Welfare, said they were preparing enforcement plans after a law passed in Parliament earlier this week.

Begging on streets of the nation’s capital, Dhaka, is rampant. According to the new law, anyone caught begging in public places will face a maximum three months in jail.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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