BEIJING

China passes new private property laws

Communist-led China took the historic step yesterday of amending
its constitution to protect the property rights of capitalists who
are driving its economic boom, while promising to focus on helping
farmers and millions of others left behind.

The nation’s parliament, making changes dictated by the
Communist Party, also passed an amendment declaring respect for
human rights but not promising free political expression — a
key issue for government critics.

The changes came as the figurehead National People’s
Congress closed a 10-day annual session dominated by promises to
shift development to the poor countryside, where 800 million
Chinese live.

“We should unite all the people of China in focusing on
construction and development in order to build a better
future,” the country’s No. 2 leader, NPC chairman Wu
Bangguo, said in a nationally televised address to the parliament’s
closing ceremony.

The outcome of the parliament reflected the ruling party’s
two-track strategy for China’s immediate future: heavy new
spending to help the rural poor, financed by more economic reform
and robust growth, projected this year at 7 percent.

 

MOSCOW

Russian leader Putin re-elected in landslide

President Vladimir Putin claimed victory early today after
easily winning a second term with more than 69 percent of the vote,
confirming widespread expectations of a commanding victory.

Assured in advance of victory, Putin was looking for a powerful
turnout to strengthen his grip over Russia — already
tightened by his appointment of a new Cabinet just before the vote
and by December parliamentary elections that gave the main
pro-Kremlin party full control over lawmaking.

According to preliminary data, 64.27 percent of voters
nationwide had cast ballots, electoral officials said.

With 49.7 percent of precincts accounted for, Putin had 69.3
percent of the vote, the Central Election Commission said. The
partial results were backed up by an exit poll by the
non-governmental Public Opinion Foundation, which surveyed 120,000
voters at 1,200 polling stations and concluded Putin had won 69
percent.

“I promise you that for the next four years, I will work
in the same mode,” Putin said. “All the democratic
achievements will be guaranteed.”

 

SEOUL, South Korea

S. Koreans rally for impeached president

North Korea condemned South Korea’s presidential
impeachment as a U.S.-masterminded “coup,” while 35,000
frustrated protesters gathered last night in downtown Seoul
rallying against the push to remove their leader.

“Nullify Impeachment!” chanted the crowd, which was
down in size from the 50,000 people who sang songs the previous
day. Organizers pledged to hold candlelight vigils every night.

Communist North Korea, run by leader Kim Jong Il with an
ironclad cult of personality, shuddered at Friday’s vote in
the National Assembly to impeach President Roh Moo-hyun on charges
of illegal campaigning and incompetence. It was the first such move
in South Korean history.

The North urged that previously scheduled inter-Korean economic
talks be moved from South Korea to the North due to the political
situation in Seoul.

 

KABUL, Afghanistan

U.S. military launches new bin Laden hunt

American military stepped up efforts to find Osama bin Laden and
destroy his al-Qaida and Taliban supporters, starting yesterday a
major new sweep across lawless southern and eastern Afghanistan
involving thousands of troops.

The military insisted their net will eventually close on the
al-Qaida leader, who has vanished since melting into the Afghan
mountains months after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United
States.

A spokesman said the new operation also will prepare the way for
reconstruction in impoverished provinces along the Pakistani border
— a reward the military hopes will loosen villagers’
tongues.

“It’s certainly about more than one person,”
Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said.

 

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti

French take over for U.S. in Haitian slums

French troops took over patrols yesterday in a slum where U.S.
Marines — under fire — killed at least two people and
angered residents demanding the return of ousted President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Aristide, meanwhile, was expected to return to the region two
weeks after he fled a bloody rebellion under pressure from the
United States and France. He planned to leave exile in the Central
African Republic yesterday and reach Jamaica early today.

His arrival in the neighboring island is raising tensions in
Haiti, where his followers plan more protests to demand he be
restored as the legitimate leader.

 

– Complied from Daily wire reports.

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