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World

January 2, 2009



At a "proper time," even military cooperation with Taiwan can be added to the growing warmth between the two sides in economic and cultural areas, China's president said in a year-end policy speech aimed at easing bilateral tensions. Hu Jintao said he understood Taiwan's desire for involvement in "international activities," to which China attaches "great importance" as long as such involvement "is not on the premise of two Chinas." In his first direct appeal to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, Hu said it would elicit "a positive response" if it gave up its ambition for an independent Taiwan.

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Hopes for a power-sharing government grew in Bangladesh as the landslide winner of Monday's national election offered cabinet posts to her opponents "to take the country forward." Sheikh Hasina however, made the offer contingent on the Nationalist Party's willingness to cooperate with her Awami League alliance and urged it to concede defeat. The Nationalists did not immediately accept. A senior leader said, "We first have to see if they want to persecute their opponents."

Opponents of Thailand's new government suspended their siege of parliament for the traditional five-day New Year holiday but vowed that the protests would resume until a national election is scheduled. The apparent next target: the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which is scheduled for late February in Bangkok. Analysts noted, however, that after a year of almost continuous political upheaval in Thailand, much of the steam appears to have gone out of the various protest movements.

Despite its forced retreat from vast swaths of northern Sri Lanka, the Tamil rebel separatist movement said it does not see itself facing imminent defeat. A senior leader told the Associated Press that the withdrawals have been "strategic ... to save the lives of our people" and that the movement would be open to restarting negotiations with the government in Colombo. The two sides agreed to a truce six years ago, but internationally mediated peace talks ultimately stalled and the government declared an end to the cease-fire last January.

Thousands of Ugandan soldiers were seen loading their belongings aboard trucks on New Year's Eve as they prepared for their promised withdrawal from Somalia. But it appeared that not all of them would leave at the same time, to keep from causing a power vacuum. Somalia's most powerful Islamist militia, Al-Shabab, warned that it would continue fighting to bring the entire country under sharia law even after the last Ugandans depart.

With Ghana's presidential runoff too close to call, the outcome will not be known until at least Friday, elections officials announced. They said everything hinges on one remote district where voting was unable to be held last Sunday "due to circumstances beyond our control." It now will have to be completed because opposition candidate John Atta Mills held only a 0.26 percent lead over Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party.

The continued flow of Russian natural gas to customers in Europe was in doubt as the new year began, amid allegations that Ukraine might siphon the fuel from pipelines for its own use. Gazprom, the Russian supplier, said it had a letter from Ukraine's state gas company threatening to divert the flow to Europe, a tactic it called "blackmail." Ukraine fell $2 billion behind in payments for supplies of gas received last year, but was trying to square accounts as it ended. Ukrainian energy officials insisted they've guaranteed "uninterrupted transportation" of the gas to Europe through pipelines that cross the former Soviet republic.

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