- - Thursday, October 27, 2011

AFGHANISTAN

Insurgents attack U.S.-run base

KABUL | Insurgents attacked a U.S.-run civilian and military base Thursday in the southern city of Kandahar, Afghan officials said. Two attackers and one civilian were reported dead.

Kandahar’s provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Razzaq, who was at the base for a meeting when the attack began, said at least three insurgents took over an office in front of the base and started shooting.

Fighting continued at the base, which is home to NATO troops including Americans, and a provincial reconstruction team.



Afghan and coalition forces have made gains in southern Afghanistan in the past two years, routing insurgents from their strongholds. They are trying to hold that territory in the south while shifting resources to deal with insurgent hot spots in the east.

CHINA

Hundreds protest taxes in eastern China

BEIJING | Hundreds of migrant small-business owners in an eastern Chinese town have protested over a tax dispute in the latest social unrest resulting from increasing economic pressure.

State websites said Thursday that the group of children’s clothing company owners protesting in the town of Zhili in Zhejiang province swelled to more than 600 people on Wednesday night.

The Huzhou Online said the protests started after one of them refused to pay taxes and gathered a group to attack a tax collector.

It said some of them blocked a highway and smashed and torched vehicles and that police detained five suspects.

Zhejiang Online said that about 100 protesters swarmed toward the township government offices, hurled rocks and destroyed street lamps.

NORTH KOREA

Pentagon chief doubts N. Korea will give up nukes

SEOUL | Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Thursday that he is skeptical that diplomacy will push North Korea to give up its nuclear program, and he raised the prospect of the North’s stance leading to “escalation and confrontation.”

In a question-and-answer session with reporters after meeting with South Korean leaders, Mr. Panetta expressed concern that North Korea is deliberately alternating between periods of modest accommodation with the West and episodes of violent aggression, perhaps with no real intention of surrendering its nuclear ambitions.

Asked whether he is skeptical about a renewed effort by the Obama administration to explore a new round of international talks over the North Korean nuclear program, Mr. Panetta said: “We’re not sure where those talks are headed at this point.”

Discussions held this week in Geneva by U.S. and North Korean diplomats produced no apparent breakthrough. “For that reason, I guess the word ‘skepticism’ would be in order,” he said.

PAKISTAN

President to attend Afghan summit

ISLAMABAD | Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will hold talks with Afghan and Turkish leaders on the eve of a long-awaited conference on Afghanistan in Istanbul, the foreign office said Thursday.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Turkish President Abullah Gul also will attend the meeting on Saturday, spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua told reporters.

The agenda will include peace, stability and reconciliation in Afghanistan, and economic cooperation for Afghanistan, she said.

“Pakistan strongly supports these areas” and will continue to “contribute constructively to all endeavors and initiatives in this regard,” she said.

Turkey hosts a regional conference on Afghanistan on Wednesday in Istanbul, which Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar will attend.

The Istanbul conference is intended to chart Afghanistan’s future with the U.S.-led NATO mission already locked into troop drawdowns that are scheduled to bring all foreign combat troops home by 2014.

AUSTRALIA

Commonwealth meeting generates trade deals

PERTH | Trade deals worth at least $10.5 billion were sealed on the sidelines of a Commonwealth business conference held in Perth this week, organizers said Thursday.

Commonwealth Business Forum organizer Mark Barnaba said the conference had been an “outstanding success,” emphasizing the growing importance of economic ties in the 54-nation group as it reforms to become more relevant.

The forum preceded the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which Queen Elizabeth II will open formally on Friday, attracting more than 1,400 delegates, including 16 heads of government.

Also attending were prominent business leaders from resource-rich Australia, including the country’s wealthiest person, Gina Rinehart, and iron ore billionaire Andrew Forrest.

Mr. Barnaba said organizers set a target of generating $10.5 billion in trade and investment deals from the forum and, while the final figure would not be known until next year, the goal appeared to have been met.

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