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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Gates Visits Troops in Afghanistan

By Sing Bourommavong / Vannasone Keodara

AFGHANISTAN: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has visited U.S. commanders in Afghanistan, assuring them that extra forces ordered by U.S. President Barack Obama will give them what they need to successfully defeat the Taliban. Gates toured a new command headquarters Wednesday that serves as a joint operation center for all NATO combat troops. He told commanders that international forces "have all the pieces coming together to be successful" in the fight against violent extremists in the country.Gates' trip follows Mr. Obama's decision to quickly send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan and then begin withdrawing them in 18 months as Afghan forces take on more responsibility. But Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday it may be five years before the army and police are ready to take on insurgents, and 15 to 20 years before his government can afford to pay for its own security.

BURMA-SUU KYI: Burma's detained pro-democracy Aung San Suu Kyi met with the military government's liaison officer at a state guesthouse for 45 minutes Wednesday. Officials say her meeting with labor minister and government liaison Aung Kyi took place at a guest house near the Nobel laureate's home. It was not immediately clear what was discussed during the meeting. The meeting Wednesday is their third since the beginning of October. It also comes after the country's Supreme Court agreed last week to hear a final appeal against her ongoing detention. Burma's military rulers have kept Aung San Suu Kyi under some form of detention for 14 of the last 20 years.

PHILIPPINES-MASSACRE :Philippine police say they have identified and are seeking 161 people, including government militiamen, for involvement in last month's gruesome massacre of 57 people. National police chief Jesus Verzosa says witnesses identified Andal Ampatuan Jr., a local mayor, as the person who led the killings. He is accused of leading the group to stop supporters of a rival politician from registering him for next year's provincial governor elections in Maguindanao. Ampatuan Jr. has already been arrested and charged with 25 counts of murder. About 30 of those suspected of involvement have also been arrested. Ampatuan Jr.'s father, the governor of Maguindanao, and other members of his powerful clan have also been detained and may face murder charges. The government has imposed martial law in the province to allow thousands of troops to make arrests without warrants.

INDONESIA-CORRUPTION: Thousands of Indonesians rallied Wednesday in several major cities to mark international anti-graft day, as they urged the government to take more action to end corruption among police, politicians and public officials. In Jakarta, more than a thousand protesters marched to the state palace carrying banners that urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take action. Hundreds of anti-riot police were stationed outside the palace, backed up by two water cannons. Mr. Yudhoyono is under mounting pressure as lawmakers probe allegations of corruption linked to a contentious $700 million dollar for a failed bank (Bank Century) last year. The president has denied accusations that some of the money that was given to the bank was channeled into his campaign for re-election in July. Mr. Yudhoyono was re-elected on a campaign to stamp out corruption.

CAMBODIA ECONOMY: The International Monetary Fund has called on Cambodia to strengthen its banking system as it tries to recover from recession. In a report issued Tuesday, the IMF encouraged the Cambodian government to strengthen banking supervision, after fluctuating real estate prices and bad risk-management policies strained the financial sector.It said Cambodia's economy is expected to shrink at a rate of 2.7 percent this year before recovering. Growth was projected for 2010, though, at a rate of 4.3 percent.

The IMF said Cambodia took an especially hard hit from the global economic crisis, after a decade of strong growth. It noted Cambodia saw a drop in tourism, export sales, and demand for agricultural products.

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