Can't find what you're looking for? Try Google Search.

Bush raps Obama pledge to meet hostile leaders

U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday sharply criticized Democratic front-runner Barack Obama's pledge to meet Cuban leader Raul Castro without preconditions, leaping squarely into the race to succeed him.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks at a rally in Austin, Texas, February 28, 2008. (REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)

"I'm not suggesting there's never a time to talk, but I'm suggesting now is not the time ... to talk with Raul Castro," Bush told a White House news conference.

It was the first major instance of Bush injecting himself into the presidential race to choose who will succeed him in the November election, with his unpopular Iraq war a major debating point on the campaign trail.

His comments also reflected how closely he is watching the campaign and how eager he is to guard his legacy. He has yet to formally endorse the Republican front-runner, Arizona Sen. John McCain, but is expected to do so.

Bush also appeared to join McCain in rebuking Obama for his remarks about Iraq at a Tuesday night debate.

Obama said during the debate with rival Hillary Clinton in Ohio that once he followed through on his pledge to speedily withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, he might have to send troops back in if al Qaeda were to form a base there.

McCain on Wednesday all but called Obama naive for making the comment, saying al Qaeda was already in Iraq, prompting Obama to blame Bush and McCain for al Qaeda being there.

"I believe Sen. Obama better stay focused on his campaign with Sen. Clinton, neither of whom has secured their party's nomination yet," Bush said.

Obama has repeatedly said he would be willing to meet without preconditions with leaders of such hostile nations as Cuba and Iran, saying current U.S. policy is not working and it is time for a fresh look at ways to improve relations.

Obama's rejection of what he calls conventional thinking in Washington has put him on the cusp of seizing the Democratic nomination from Clinton, long considered the inevitable nominee.

The 46-year-old Obama, the Illinois senator who would be America's first black president, has come from way back in the polls in Texas and Ohio, two big states that vote next Tuesday. Victories there would put him in a commanding position.

Bush has steadfastly refused to meet leaders of hostile nations, saying it would send the wrong message to the world.

The United States has for decades rejected relations with the communist government in Cuba and is locked in a test of wills with Iran over concerns Tehran wants to develop nuclear weapons.

Asked at the news conference about Obama's position on meeting leaders of Cuba and Iran, Bush said it would be a mistake to hold talks with them.

"I just remind people that the decisions of the U.S. president to have discussions with certain international figures can be extremely counterproductive. It can send chilling signals and messages to our allies. It can send confusion about our foreign policy," he said.

He said the actions of Raul Castro, brother of ailing former President Fidel Castro, amount to "nothing more than the extension of what his brother did, which was to ruin an island and imprison people because of their beliefs."

His position was similar to that of New York Sen. Clinton, who argued at a debate with Obama last week in Texas that there should be no talks with Cuba until it makes progress on releasing political prisoners and improving human rights.

"The idea of embracing a leader who has done this without any attempt on his part to, you know, release prisoners and free their society would be counterproductive and send the wrong signal," he said.

Read More News Dedicated...

Black Americans see Obama rise in context of history

Barack Obama has not asked black voters to back him solely because he could become the first black president in U.S. history, but for many African Americans the prospect remains tantalizing.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama speaks at a rally in San Marcos, Texas February 27, 2008. Obama has not asked black voters to back him solely because he could become the first black president in U.S. history, but for many African Americans the prospect remains tantalizing. (REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)

Many see his campaign for the Democratic nomination in terms of racial progress and in the context of a long struggle for political participation.

In interviews, people said Obama's ability to win primary and caucus races in predominantly white states also challenged a deep pessimism about the electoral prospects for an African American. Obama had a Kenyan father and white American mother.

"There is a population of African Americans, specifically the masses of African Americans ... who see Barack Obama as the culmination of the civil rights movements and other movements against racial inequality," said Melissa Harris-Lacewell, professor of politics at Princeton University in New Jersey.

"No one thought this would happen in our lifetime, or even in the lifetime of our children," Harris-Lacewell said.

Blacks overwhelmingly vote for Democratic candidates and big majorities have supported Obama over his rival Sen. Hillary Clinton who, along with her husband former President Bill Clinton, forged close ties with black voters.

Clinton has campaigned extensively for black votes but has seen her support erode despite the backing of influential politicians including the top tax writer in the House of Representatives, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York.

The senior black representative in Congress, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, is staying neutral in the race but in a sign of eroding support prominent Congressman John Lewis switched his endorsement on Wednesday from Clinton to Obama.

"The people are pressing for a new day in American politics and I think they see Sen. Barack Obama as a symbol of that change," Lewis said.


Black support for Obama who is running to succeed President George W. Bush in elections in November is sometimes presented as a matter of simple racial pride.

The sentiment is expressed by the slogan seen on T-shirts: "He's black and I'm proud", a reference to a 1968 song by soul singer James Brown "Say it Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud". But some argue the reasons for it are complex.

A year ago, black voters were unsure about Obama, who was relatively unknown and had not risen through civil rights era of the 1960s that brought many blacks into national politics.

In February 2007 he lagged behind Clinton in polls of black voters, who make up about 10 percent of the U.S. electorate and are considered the most reliable Democratic block.

Only after a Jan. 3 win in Iowa, where there are few black voters, did his popularity among South Carolina blacks soar, suggesting that Obama's appeal in part is based upon his ability to rally a diverse constituency.

"(Black) people want their vote to count. They may have thought that he was attractive as a candidate but they weren't going to vote for him if he had no chance," said William Jelani Cobb, a history professor at Spelman College in Atlanta.

"With Obama he is going for broke. That raised a higher bar for him getting support from black folk," Cobb said.

In a debate with Clinton on Tuesday the Illinois senator repeated a message central to his campaign, which he has used with largely black audiences: that he can help bring unity.

"I can bring this country together I think in a unique way, across divisions of race, religion, region. And that is what's going to be required in order for us to actually deliver on the issues that both Senator Clinton and I care so much about," he said.

The Democratic nominee will face the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.


Even as Obama takes center stage in U.S. national politics, several voters expressed a fear they said was based upon history that suggests an African American risks having his ambition thwarted through violence.

The memory of the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King 40 years ago is never far from their minds.

"This man's life they are going to snuff out before they let him sit in this seat (the White House)," said Shirley Hightower, a community activist at a housing project in Atlanta. "I like Obama but I am scared for him," she said.

At his request, the U.S. Secret Service began protecting Obama in May, the earliest that a presidential candidate has received protection -- 18 months before an election.

The U.S. Secret Service routinely provides security for the nominee from each political party, and as a former first lady, Clinton is protected.

Read More News Dedicated...

Sweden, Norway hold suspects after terror raids

Police in Sweden and Norway detained six people on Thursday on suspicion of offences related to terrorism after carrying out coordinated raids.

The move comes just over a week after Norway's intelligence agency said that the threat of terror attacks by Islamic radicals was rising in part because of the country's military presence in Afghanistan. Norway has about 500 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission.

There have been no major terror attacks in the Nordic region, but Sweden's Security Service has warned that the country might serve as a recruiting ground and source of finance for terrorism elsewhere.

"Three people have been taken into custody," said Maria Martinsson, spokeswoman for the Swedish Security Service.

"They are suspected of preparing terrorist activity and of financing terrorism."

The three, all Swedish citizens, were held in raids around the capital Stockholm.

Norway's state security police said they had detained three people in the capital Oslo on suspicion of funding terrorist activities abroad. Police also raided at least two Internet cafes in Oslo and took away computer equipment.

"We are looking for evidence," spokesman Martin Bernsen said.

Those detained will be brought before a court, probably on Friday or Saturday, he added.


Sweden's Security Service said their actions had nothing to do with Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, which sparked deadly riots in 2006 or with a Swedish artist, threatened by extremists over his drawing of the Prophet last year.

In Denmark, police arrested two Tunisians and a Dane of Moroccan descent earlier this month, accusing them of planning to kill a cartoonist who drew one of the images of the Prophet.

Two men were jailed in Sweden in 2005 for collecting money to fund attacks in Iraq. Three Swedish Muslims were also jailed in 2006 for fire-bombing an Iraqi election office and planning an attack on a church.

In Norway, two men stand charged of plotting a terror attack against the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Oslo in 2006.

One of them, a Norway-born Pakistani, has also been charged with firing about a dozen shots with an automatic weapon into the wall of a synagogue in September 2006, which put the police on to the trail of the embassy plot.

Read More News Dedicated...

Bush defends NAFTA, presses for Colombia vote

President George W. Bush criticized Democratic presidential candidates on Thursday for suggesting the United States could "opt out" of the North American Free Trade Agreement and urged Congress to boost U.S. exports by approving a trade deal with Colombia.

"There are a lot of farmers and businesses, large and small, who are benefiting from having a market in our neighborhood. And the idea of just unilaterally withdrawing from a trade treaty because of, you know, trying to score political points is not good policy," Bush said during a White House press conference.

U.S. President George W. Bush holds a news conference in the White House in Washington February 28, 2008. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

During a presidential campaign debate earlier this week in Ohio, both Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama criticized NAFTA and said the United States could opt out of the agreement if Mexico and Canada don't agree to renegotiate labor, environmental and investment provisions of the pact.

The candidates were responding to the strong view of many Ohio voters that the 14-year-old agreement is responsible for many manufacturing job losses in that state, which holds a crucial presidential voting contest on Tuesday.

Bush warned withdrawing from the pact would hurt U.S. farmers and businesses who export around $380 billion worth of goods to Canada and Mexico each year and said a signal that the United States does not honor its trade commitments.

Canadian and Mexican official have also expressed alarm at the idea of renegotiating the pact.

"It would be like throwing a monkey wrench into the engine of North American competitiveness," Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico's ambassador to the United States, told the Financial Times in a story published on Thursday.

Bush also warned that congressional rejection of an unpopular free trade pact with Colombia would damage U.S. national security interests in the Latin American region and said he expected lawmakers to vote on the pact soon.

"The Colombia free trade vote is coming up," Bush said.

Colombia currently receives duty-free treatment for most of its goods under a U.S. trade preference programs that dates back to the early 1990s.

The pending trade deal would lock in that duty-free access and phase out Colombia's tariffs on U.S. exports.

Congressional Democrats have said Colombia needs to make more progress in reducing violence against trade unionists and putting murderers in jail before they can support the pact.

Both Obama and Clinton also oppose voting on the Colombia agreement at this time.

Read More News Dedicated...

Secrecy, planning key to smooth Castro succession

Fidel Castro's withdrawal from power in Cuba could have sparked a crisis for its communist leaders, but detailed planning and water-tight secrecy ensured a stable succession.

People stand on a staircase next to images of retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro and late revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara at a tobacco farm in Cuba's western province of Pinar del Rio February 26, 2008. (REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa)

When Raul Castro was installed as Cuba's first new leader in half a century on Sunday, taking over from his ailing brother, hardly a ripple was felt in the country of 11 million people, and nobody was cheering in the streets of the anti-Castro exile stronghold of Miami.

"Instead of things getting out of control, what we saw was Fidel Castro supervising his succession," said Paolo Spadoni, assistant professor of political science at Rollins College in Florida.

When Castro, in power since ousting a U.S.-backed dictator in his 1959 revolution, was rushed to hospital 19 months ago with intestinal bleeding, he came close to death.

The revolutionary had frustrated the efforts of 10 U.S. presidents to oust him and was viewed as the glue that held the one-party system together for five decades,

Many of his enemies hoped his departure from the stage might send it crashing down as quickly as Soviet bloc communism crumbled in Europe.

But Castro survived the health crisis and delegated power to his brother, Raul Castro, starting a gradual transition that got Cubans used to the notion that Fidel Castro, 81, would not always be around and gave his Communist Party time to prepare.

Castro almost certainly drew up a succession plan years ago and he began talking publicly about his own mortality and the next generation of leaders after he fainted while delivering an outdoor speech in 2001.

Cuba watchers believe he knew more than six months before he underwent surgery around July 26, 2006, that he might have to enter an operation room.

When his condition became critical after having what Spain's El Pais newspaper said was a botched colostomy, Castro's inner circle activated a plan already prepared for a gradual transfer of power to his brother.

"The key to their strategy has been secrecy and discipline. There has not been a single leak. We still don't know what his illness is or even where he is, and they'll keep it that way," said a long-time Havana resident, who asked not to be named.

Castro made clear he was thinking about his succession plan in a speech on Nov. 17, 2005, at Havana University.

He warned that Cuba's socialist system could implode if problems, such as widespread pilfering of state goods for sale on the black market, were not corrected in time for a new generation of leaders to carry the torch.


After apparently putting the worst of his health crisis behind him, Castro last year began writing articles to stay in the public mind and prepare Cubans for his retirement.

He did it so successfully that his formal announcement on Feb. 19 that he would not return to power came as no surprise. Many Cubans felt he had done enough and deserved a rest.

In his retirement message, Castro said he had prepared the ground for his departure.

"My first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle," he wrote. "I kept saying that my recovery 'was not without risks.'"

Castro's critics denounce what they see as a succession from one dictator to another.

But they misjudged the resilience of Cuba's Communist Party and the armed forces, and the economic recovery Cuba has seen since help arrived in the form of affordable oil from Cuba's main benefactor, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

John Kirk, a historian at Dalhousie University in Canada, said some critics also underestimated the government's level of popular support.

"The symbolism of Fidel Castro's rule will remain, and the "lion in winter" will still be consulted actively on major policies," he said.

For many Cubans, an event once expected to be momentous -- Fidel Castro's retirement -- was an anticlimax.

"It's as if nothing had happened at all," said Maritza Socarras, a kinder-garden teacher, saddened by the fading of a man who put her small country on the world map. "If he had died, it would have been more of a historic event."

Read More News Dedicated...

Prince Harry deployed in Afghanistan

Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, has been secretly serving as a combat soldier on the front lines in Afghanistan for 2-1/2 months, the Ministry of Defence said on Thursday.

Prince Harry prepares to greet guests as they arrive for the Service of Thanksgiving for the Life of Diana at the Guards' Chapel at Wellington Barracks in London, August 31, 2007. Harry has been serving with the British army in Afghanistan for 2-1/2 months, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday. (REUTERS/Pool/Lewis Whyld/WPA/PA Wire/Files)

Following leaks in the international media about his deployment, officials said they were reviewing whether he should remain there, fearing that he could become a target for Taliban militants or other fighters.

Harry, 23, was deployed to Helmand, a dangerous region of southern Afghanistan, in December, seven months after plans to send him to Iraq were scrapped following threats from Iraqi militants to kidnap or kill him.

The army posted him to Afghanistan only after the British and selected members of the international media agreed not to report his presence until he had returned from a scheduled 4-6 month deployment.

That embargo was broken on Thursday after German, Australian and U.S. Web sites reported that he was there.

Harry has been responsible for calling in air strikes against Taliban positions, has conducted foot patrols through villages and has fired on suspected enemy combatants, pool photographs and footage have shown.

Before he was deployed, Harry, the son of Prince Charles and deceased Princess Diana, told reporters that he sometimes wished he was not a royal as it made it difficult to do things that he enjoyed, including fighting in the army.

"I wish that quite a lot actually," he said, adding of himself and his brother, William:

"William and I have said numerous times that there's a lot of opportunities that we miss out on -- as well as we also got a lot of chances -- for who we are.

"At the beginning of this year (2007), it was very hard and I did think, `well, clearly one of the main reasons that I'm not likely to be going (to war) was the fact of who I am'."

It was Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, who told him that he was to be sent to Afghanistan.


In recent days, the prince has given interviews to reporters sent out to cover his deployment as part of a "pool" arrangement. He said he was aware that if his presence there was reported it could make him a target for al Qaeda or others.

"Once this film comes out there'll probably be every single person, every single person that supports them will be trying to slot me," he said.

"Now that you come to think about it it's quite worrying.

"I think there's a lot of guys here who hopefully won't be targeted, but as I say, now that this film has been made and now ... people will know I'm out here, no doubt I'll be a top target."

The head of the army, General Richard Dannatt, issued a statement expressing his disappointment that the press embargo -- a rare agreement in Britain's usually free-for-all media environment -- had been broken by foreign media Web sites.

"In deciding to deploy him to Afghanistan, it was my judgment that with an understanding with the media not to broadcast his whereabouts, the risk in doing (so) was manageable," Dannatt said.

"Now that the story is in the public domain, the chief of staff and I will take advice from the operational commanders about whether his deployment can continue.

"I now appeal to the media to restrain from attempting to report Prince Harry's every move and return to our understanding."

Dannatt, whose decision it was to cancel Harry's deployment to Iraq, said he had been a model soldier.

"His conduct on operations in Afghanistan has been exemplary," he said. "He has been fully involved in operations and has run the same risks as everyone else."

Read More News Dedicated...

Study sheds light on paralysing nerve condition

British researchers have discovered a genetic mutation that causes a paralysing illness called ALS in some people, a finding they said on Thursday may lead to treatments for the degenerative nerve condition.

Their study showed how this genetic variation produced proteins that were toxic and killed motor neuron cells in people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, also commonly known as motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig's disease.

"We discovered that the mutation was appearing only in people who were affected," said Chris Shaw, a researcher at the Institute of Psychiatry in London who led the study published in the journal Science. "This suggested it is disease-causing."

The finding is important, he said, because the disease kills quickly -- usually between two and five years after symptoms start -- and has no effective treatments. Physicist Stephen Hawking is a rare example of a person who has survived for years with the condition.

ALS leaves people unable to walk, talk or feed themselves but does not usually affect their intellect and other senses. Doctors diagnose about 120,000 new cases each year, according to the International Alliance of ALS.

Shaw and colleagues isolated a mutation in a gene called TARDBP in people with a rare, inherited form of ALS. They found that people with this variation produced a mutant and toxic protein called TDP-43.

Previous research had suggested the protein might have existed as sort of cellular junk generated as a harmless by-product of the disease. But by injecting these mutated proteins into the spines of chicks in eggs, Shaw's team showed they actually killed motor neurons.

While only about 1 percent of people have this form of ALS, the findings have wider implications because most people with the disease have these proteins accumulating in the wrong place within the cell, Shaw said.

"It also means we develop new and better disease models, which will bring us close to developing more effective therapies," he said.

In 1993 a group of U.S. researches identified a gene called SOD1 that caused a form of ALS affecting about 5 percent of people with the disease -- the only people with the condition who do not accumulate TDP-43 proteins, Shaw said.

That finding triggered a flood of new research into the disease, and the discovery of a second gene could draw even more people into the field, said Brian Dickie, director of Research Development at Britain's Motor Neuron Disease Association.

"The discovery of a new cause of the disease is of international importance, allowing researchers around the world to rapidly generate more pieces of the complex puzzle that is motor neuron disease," he said.

Read More News Dedicated...

Kenya rivals forge coalition to end crisis

Kenya's president and opposition leader signed a deal to create a power-sharing government on Thursday, hoping to end a post-election crisis that plunged the country into its worst turmoil since independence.

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki (2nd R) meets mediator Kofi Annan (L) opposition leader Raila Odinga (R), his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete (2nd L) in Nairobi, February 28, 2008. (REUTERS/Presidential Press Service/Handout)

After a month of often bitter negotiations punctuated by violence around the east African nation, President Mwai Kibaki and his rival Raila Odinga inked an agreement and shook hands to a roar of applause.

"We have a deal," mediator Kofi Annan said. "Compromise was necessary for the survival of this country ... they kept the future of Kenya always in their sights and reached a common position for the good of the nation."

Kibaki and Odinga were under intense pressure from the international community and Kenya's 36 million people to find a solution to forestall more bloodshed and help restore their country's reputation as a stable, prosperous regional anchor.

Kibaki's disputed re-election in a Dec. 27 ballot triggered ethnic clashes that killed at least 1,000 people and forced 300,000 more to flee their homes.

Under the deal, a new prime minister's position will be created for Odinga, who has sought that role since he first helped elect Kibaki in 2002. He claims the president reneged on a deal to give him the job after that vote.

It will also give cabinet posts based on each party's strength in parliament and create two deputy prime ministers' jobs, one for each side of the coalition. Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has the largest number of seats.

Later, Kenya will undertake a full review of the constitution, a 45-year-old document which many Kenyans have pushed to change since the 1990s since it gives the president nearly unchecked authority over affairs of state.

Many Kenyans want a new charter to help address rifts over land, tribe and wealth that have plagued the nation since before independence from Britain in 1963.


Thursday's talks brought Odinga and Kibaki to the same table for the first time in a month, after an exasperated Annan suspended negotiations on Tuesday and said the two leaders had to strike a deal themselves.

"As a nation there are more issues that unite than divide us. We've been reminded we must do all in our power to safeguard the peace that is the foundation of our national unity ... Kenya has room for all of us," Kibaki said after the signing.

He ordered parliament to convene next Thursday to pass a constitutional amendment to push through the changes.

A beaming Odinga said: "We have opened a new chapter in our history, from the era of confrontation to the beginning of cooperation."

"We should begin to ensure that Kenyans begin to celebrate and love each other, that we destroy the monster that is called ethnicity," he said.

Shortly afterward, riot police fired several canisters of teargas at rowdy Odinga supporters celebrating near the president's downtown office where the ceremony took place.

In Odinga's opposition stronghold Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya, residents took to the streets celebrating and ululating over the deal.

The immediate effect on Kenya's economy was not clear as markets had closed, but the shilling currency had strengthened in anticipation of an agreement this week.

"The closer you get to a resolution, the better. The question is now the magnitude of the damage done to companies and the economy," said Matthew Pearson, head of African equities research at Renaissance Capital Management in London.


The crisis erupted after Kibaki was sworn in on Dec. 30 and Odinga claimed the election was rigged.

Kibaki said he won fairly and blamed his rival for inciting violence instead of going to court to challenge the result -- the closest in Kenya's post-independence history.

Protests turned into riots and looting met with a forceful police response. Simultaneously, ethnic attacks by opposition backers on Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe exploded and then unleashed reprisal killings.

The United States, Britain and the European Union applauded Thursday's deal, which they had pushed very hard to get finished as quickly as possible.

"We are pleased ... It allows the Kenyan people to move forward with a very basic issue of governance," U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said "common sense" had prevailed that he was ready to host a donors conference for Kenya in London. "Real leadership, patience and tolerance is necessary to ensure that the agreement sticks," Brown said.

Read More News Dedicated...

Four in Forbes Asia list

Four Malaysians made it to the Forbes Asia list of the region’s most generous and interesting philanthropists.

Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary, Hishamudin Ubaidulla, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and Datuk Amar Leonard Linggi Tun Jugah were featured in the inaugural Forbes Asia Heroes of Philanthropy list in its March 10 issue.

Syed Mokhtar, 56, is founder and sole donor of a Muslim charity, Albukhary Foundation that assists the needy.

Established in 1996, the foundation funds remedial classes in English, science and math for 20,000 underachieving students each year and runs a college scholarship programme for 300 students from more than 40 countries.

Syed Mokhtar controls Malaysia Mining Corp and holds big stakes in Johor Port and other businesses.

Hishamudin, 52, oversees Yayasan Ubaidi, a foundation funded entirely with profits from commercial buildings and the sale of land bought by his father years ago.

The foundation helps families who cannot make ends meet, pays medical expenses, helps single mothers pay for tertiary education, assists hospitals that cannot afford equipment.

Hishamudin, who helps run the family travel agency, is also chairman of Deir Yassin Remembered Malaysia, a movement committed to ending the war between Israel and Palestine.

Former MP for Kota Baru, Zaid, 57, who owns the country’s largest law firm, Zaid Ibrahim & Co, set up the Kelantan Foundation for the Disabled in 1998.

The foundation serves 2,400 people suffering from Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy and other disabilities.

Linggi, 67, a prominent Iban businessman has varied dealings, including real estate, plantation, shipping, hotel and other companies.

Tun Jugah Foundation gets virtually all of its contributions from him. It focuses on preserving the culture of the Ibans in Sarawak. In 2003, it began compiling the first Iban dictionary.

This year Forbes put together a list of 48 philanthropists.

Read More News Dedicated...

Police exhume skeletal remains of Penan chief

The Sarawak police have exhumed the skeletal remains of a 71-year-old Penan chief from a burial site deep in the forests of Long Kerong in northern Sarawak to determine the cause of his death following complaints from his family that he had died under “suspicious” circumstances in a logging concession zone.

A team of police officers from the Marudi police station, some 200km from here, travelled to Long Kerong and carried out the exhumation of Kelesau Neng’s body over the past two days following a top-level directive from the police headquarters in Kuching and Bukit Aman, a source told The Star yesterday.

The remains were ferried using river and land transportation from Long Kerong, where Kelesau and his family resided, to the Miri Hospital mortuary under heavy police escort.

A hospital source said yesterday that preparations would be made for forensic tests to be conducted on the bones as soon as possible to find out the cause of his death.

Kelesau went missing late in October last year after he went for a hunting trip inside a logging concession zone surrounding his settlement.

In late December, Kelesau’s family members lodged police reports in Marudi , the main town nearest to Long Kerong, after they discovered a skeleton next to a riverbank near the logging camp.

The family believe that he had died under suspicious circumstances based on the condition of his remains.

Two weeks ago, the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) in Kuala Lumpur appealed to the police to investigate the matter, saying that his family had strong reasons to suspect foul play.

Read More News Dedicated...

Botched cosmetic surgery victims not making reports

The Malaysian Medical Council cannot take action against doctors involved in botch cosmetic surgeries if no complainants step forward to lodge a report, Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said.

In the case of Datin Fatimah Wan Chik, wife of Labuan incumbent Datuk Suhaili Abdul Rahman, who had been in coma since she got into complications from a cosmetic surgery she had undergone at a clinic in Klang on Jan 9, he said the MMC had received a written explanation from the doctor who did the cosmetic surgery.

“But we cannot do anything if no one lodges a complaint,” said the Health Ministry director-general and MMC president Dr Ismail.

He said this after launching the book Medical Ethics, Etiquette and Law by Dr Abdul-Hamid Abdul-Kadir here yesterday.

Fatimah had been on life-support since Jan 18, after she had undergone a tummy tuck, liposuction and surgery for her eye bags.

Dr Abdul-Hamid, who is the MMC Ethics Committee chairman, said currently the law requires a complainant to come forward before any action can be taken against the doctor.

“We cannot act based on hearsay,” he said, adding that nevertheless MMC is taking action to prevent such thing from happening again.

Many doctors lack ethical knowledge because medical schools do not emphasis on that and the book is the first of its kind for medical students and young doctors, he said.

Read More News Dedicated...

Barisan Nasional mounts big campaign to win back the state

Kelantan is the main target. Umno and its Barisan Nasional partners are laying siege to the East Coast state that has been under PAS rule for the past 18 years.

In this general election, the battle will be for 20 state seats that both sides have listed as marginal, where the majorities in the 2004 polls were less than 1,000 votes. There are 45 state constituencies.

Kelantan Barisan head Datuk Annuar Musa revealed that the coalition would intensify its psychological war to capture the crucial marginal seats

This campaign is expected to gain further momentum with the visit of Barisan chief Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today.

His full day of events comes two days after his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak spent over 24 hours in Kelantan.

Najib not only took aim at PAS, but was also there to put a stop to the in-fighting among Umno members that had scuttled past efforts to unseat PAS.

“There should not be ‘your people’ and ‘my people’ in Umno. I don’t want to hear such talk. There are only Umno people in the Barisan,” he said on Wednesday.

Abdullah is expected to repeat the message today and will seek to galvanise the Umno grassroots and leaders into focusing on defeating PAS.

From independence, Kelantan was ruled by the Barisan and its predecessor, the Alliance, for only 12 years. During the other 38, PAS or its then ally Berjasa was in control.

Annuar, who is expecting to change it this year, said the Barisan’s trump card was the Kelantan manifesto, to be launched on Saturday, in which the coalition promises to lower assessment rates and give tax breaks and incentives for businesses.

The Islamist party on its part has fortified its seats and looked at the gain of the state constituency of Kijang on nomination day as a good omen of its chances of fending off the Barisan.

PAS vice-president Datuk Husam Musa declared in his daily media briefing yesterday, that it was impossible for the Barisan to win because “the groundswell favours us.”

“However, we are prepared for Barisan if it steps up its campaign. We have our plans to counter that.”

Read More News Dedicated...

Obama and Clinton clash in heated U.S. debate

Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton clashed sharply in a high-stakes one-on-one debate on Tuesday, accusing each other of falsely portraying their stances on health care, trade and other issues.

US Democratic presidential candidates Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) square off in the last debate before the Ohio primary in Cleveland, Ohio, February 26, 2008. (REUTERS/Matt Sullivan)

Clinton, who needs to win next week in Ohio and Texas to keep her presidential campaign alive after Obama's streak of 11 straight victories in nominating contests, went on the attack early in the debate at Cleveland State University in Ohio.

Obama fired back repeatedly in a series of sometimes heated but controlled exchanges. The debate, the last before next Tuesday's contests, was sharper in tone than last week's encounter in Texas, but far less personal and angry than a debate last month in South Carolina.

Clinton kept up her recent criticism of Obama campaign literature sent to Ohio voters that she said mischaracterized her health care proposal, which includes mandates requiring Americans to purchase health insurance.

"We should have a good debate that uses accurate information, not false, misleading and discredited information, especially on something as important as whether or not we will achieve quality, affordable health care for everyone," the New York senator said.

Obama, an Illinois senator, said Clinton has frequently misrepresented his health care plan, which does not include mandates and which some critics suggest could leave 15 million Americans uninsured.

Obama said he was interested in bringing the cost of health care down and making coverage more affordable and enforcing mandates could create a burden on some low-income Americans. Clinton's criticisms, he said, were part of a consistent pattern.

"Senator Clinton has ... constantly sent out negative attacks on us, e-mail, robo-calls, flyers, television ads, radio calls, and we haven't whined about it because I understand that's the nature of these campaigns," he said.

"But to suggest somehow that our mailing is somehow different from the kinds of approaches that Senator Clinton has taken throughout this campaign I think is simply not accurate."


With her campaign on the line, Clinton has aggressively attacked Obama in the last few days, questioning his readiness to become commander in chief and chiding him for the health care campaign literature sent to Ohio voters.

Clinton, once the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination for the November election, has lost once strong polling leads in Ohio and Texas as Obama has gained momentum and made inroads among her supporters.

In the debate, she attacked Obama for claiming she supported the North American Free Trade Agreement, which she said she believes should be renegotiated. She was first lady when her husband, President Bill Clinton, approved the deal.

The trade agreement is unpopular in Ohio, where it has been blamed for contributing to a broad loss of manufacturing jobs in the state.

"You know, I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning. I didn't have a public position on it because I was part of the administration. But when I started running for the Senate, I have been a critic," Clinton said.

But Obama repeated the charge and said he would push to have NAFTA redone.

"I think that it is inaccurate for Senator Clinton to say that she's always opposed NAFTA. In her campaign for Senate, she said that NAFTA, on balance, had been good for New York and good for America," he said.

Clinton complained about having to take the first question more often than Obama, and made reference to her campaign's charges that he gets an easier ride from the national media than she does.

She pointed to a television skit that portrayed a fawning press posing questions to Obama.

"If anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow," she said. "I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues, but I'm happy to answer it."

The two contenders revisited their differences on the Iraq war. Clinton said Obama, an early opponent of the war, had the advantage of not being in the Senate in 2002 when she voted to authorize the war.

"He didn't have responsibility, he didn't have to vote," she said.

But Obama said the vote cast doubt on Clinton's judgment, and she "facilitated and enabled" President George W. Bush's decision to go to war.

"Senator Clinton often says that she is ready on Day One, but in fact she was ready to give into George Bush on this critical issue," he said.

Read More News Dedicated...

Obama picks up endorsement of former rival Dodd

Democratic hopeful Barack Obama won the endorsement of former rival Chris Dodd on Tuesday as Hillary Clinton looked to an evening debate to shake up a U.S. presidential race tilting against her.

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama addresses his supporters during a campaign speech at the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio February 25, 2008. (REUTERS/John Sommers II)

On the Republican side, presumptive nominee Sen. John McCain was forced to apologize in Cincinnati after Bill Cunningham, a conservative radio talk show host who preceded him at a rally, three times referred to Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama."

Cunningham also said a Clinton backer, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, "looks like death warmed over."

"I want to disassociate myself from any disparaging remarks that were made," McCain told reporters. He said he did not select Cunningham to appear at the rally and had never met him.

Obama's full name is Barack Hussein Obama but for a critic to mention his middle name suggests an attempt to associate him with the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Dodd, a veteran Connecticut senator who dropped out of the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in early January, announced his support for Obama at a news conference with the Illinois senator.

Dodd said he had been "skeptical like many others" of Obama but had been won over and felt now was "a moment of unity in our country" when Democrats need to rally behind him.

Obama and Clinton were to face off in a 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT) debate in snowy Cleveland, Clinton's last big chance to turn around the race ahead of potentially pivotal contests next Tuesday in Texas and Ohio, two states where polls show Obama making a move.

A New York Times/CBS News poll said Obama is now viewed by most Democrats as the candidate best able to beat the presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, in the November election to determine President George W. Bush's successor.

The good news for Obama came amid signs of frustration in the struggling campaign of New York Sen. Clinton, once considered the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination and now in danger of getting knocked out of the race.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that over a breakfast meeting with a group of reporters on Monday, Clinton press secretary Phil Singer chided journalists for "woefully inadequate" coverage of Obama.

At the same breakfast, Clinton senior adviser Harold Ickes told the group: "I think if we lose in Texas and Ohio, Mrs. Clinton will have to make her decisions as to whether she goes forward or not."

Washington pundits over the past couple of days have wondered aloud which Clinton will show up at the Cleveland debate, the one who last week in Texas said she was honored to share the debate stage with Obama, or the one who on Saturday declared, "Shame on you, Barack Obama," for what she basically said was lying about her record.

Obama said at the news conference with Dodd that the race "has gotten a little hotter over the last couple of days" and that he had told his staff -- and hoped Clinton had told hers -- "let's make sure that we maintain the kind of campaign that, win or lose, we will be proud of afterwards."

Clinton admitted at a town-hall meeting in Lorain, Ohio, that "I got a little hot over the weekend" about the Obama campaign. In talking about turning around the U.S. economy, she again criticized Obama's reliance on speeches long on inspiration but lacking a lot of substance.

"I can't do it just by hoping for it. Hope is not a plan," Clinton said.

Clinton has been trying to raise questions about whether Americans should risk handing the presidency to Obama at a time of global turmoil, given his relative inexperience as a first-term senator.

The New York Times/CBS News poll suggested this line of attack was not working.

It said 47 percent of registered voters had confidence that Obama would deal wisely with an international crisis, compared to 39 percent who had confidence in Clinton. And the poll said 69 percent believed Obama would be an effective commander-in-chief, compared to 54 percent for Clinton.

Read More News Dedicated...

Britain joins U.S.-led nuclear power club

Britain has signed up to a U.S.-sponsored club of countries that want to see more nuclear power plants built globally while keeping atomic weapons in the hands of a few.

Britain became the 21st member of the Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), which aims to keep a firm grip on technologies that can be used to make nuclear weapons, when UK industry minister John Hutton signed up on Tuesday.

"The UK shares in the vision of improved non-proliferation and nuclear waste management and recognises the real benefits of initiatives such as GNEP," Hutton said in a statement issued before the signing in Washington.

"With a new generation of nuclear energy now set to be part of the UK's future energy mix, the UK is in position to play a role in this global initiative."

The British government is in talks with some of Europe's largest utilities about building a new generation of atomic power plants in the country and Hutton is expected to meet U.S.-based companies interested in taking part during his visit.

The U.S. sees the GNEP, which was initiated by President George W. Bush in 2006, as way to share expertise in waste management to countries hoping to build their first reactors, while keeping a grip on the technologies and knowledge that could be used to develop atomic weapons.

"This important addition provides great momentum for GNEP and will help advance its important goals of expanding clean, safe nuclear power development while reducing the risk of nuclear proliferation," U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said in a statement.

All but one of GNEP's original members -- China, France, Russia and the United States -- have nuclear weapons, with only Japan limiting its nuclear activity to energy. Britain also has nuclear weapons.

The U.S. suspects Iran's nuclear programme is aimed at making nuclear weapons. Tehran says it only wants nuclear power is not on the waiting list to join GNEP.

Algeria and Saudi Arabia, which have also shown an interest in nuclear power as a way of boosting oil exports, are not lining up to join the group. Italy, where nuclear power has been outlawed since the late 1980s, joined last November.

Senegal in west Africa became the 20th member of the group at the start of February, while Canada, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Bulgaria, Ghana, Hungary, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and Ukraine joined last year.

Other candidate or observer countries include Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, Morocco and Turkey.

Read More News Dedicated...

Brazil termite hunters find 200-year-old mummy

Exterminators looking for termites in a monastery in Brazil's biggest city of Sao Paulo found a mummy and a skeleton believed to be at least 200 years old, the head of the monastery said on Tuesday.

"There were some mounds of termite dust and the exterminators broke into the walls to see what was in there," Father Armenio Rodrigues Nogueira, who is in charge of the monastery, one of the city's oldest, told Reuters.

"It was a huge surprise."

The bodies, believed to be two nuns, were found weeks ago, but officials at the Mosteiro da Luz (Monastery of Light) decided to keep them secret while the Institute for National Artistic and Historical Heritage did further research.

The Catholic monastery was founded in 1774 by Brazil's first saint, Antonio Galvao, about 50 years before the nation's independence from colonial power Portugal.

Read More News Dedicated...

Photo gives face to Anne Frank's 'one true love'

A photograph of the boy with the "beautiful brown eyes" who Anne Frank recalled as her "one true love" in the diary she wrote whilst in hiding in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands is to go on display in Amsterdam.

A picture of Peter Schiff, the young boy who Anne Frank wrote of in her diary, is seen in a card to his school friend Ernst Michaelis in this handout picture received February 26, 2008. (REUTERS/Courtesy of Ernst Michaelis/Anne Frank House/Handout)

The photo of Peter Schiff was donated to the Anne Frank museum by his former childhood friend Ernst Michaelis who realised after rereading Anne's diary recently there were no known pictures of Schiff, a museum spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

Frank's Jewish family fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and settled in Amsterdam. During World War Two the Nazis occupied the Netherlands and began deporting Jews to the death camps in 1942, prompting the Frank family to go into hiding.

They lived in a secret annexe in a canal-side house for more than two years before their hiding place was betrayed and the family sent to concentration camps.

Anne recorded her years in the attic hideaway in her diaries. A Dutch woman who helped the family found them in the annexe after Anne's arrest and gave them to her father Otto who survived the Holocaust. They became famous around the world.

She writes in her diary: "I forgot that I haven't yet told you the story of my one true love".

"Peter was the ideal boy: tall, slim and good-looking, with a serious, quiet and intelligent face," Anne wrote of the 13-year-old she had fallen for in 1940 when she was just 11.


They would collect each other from school and walk hand in hand through their local neighbourhood.

"He had dark hair, beautiful brown eyes, ruddy cheeks and a nicely pointed nose. I was crazy about his smile, which made him look so boyish and mischievous."

Peter later died in Auschwitz, while Anne died in Bergen Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

Michaelis, now 81, had attended a Jewish school with Schiff in Berlin in the 1930s before both families fled the Nazis. When they parted, the boys exchanged photographs.

"He read the diary in the 1950s and thought that Peter Schiff was very likely his friend. But it was only when reading it later that he saw there were no photos and so he contacted us," said a museum spokeswoman.

Anne last saw Peter a few days before she moved into the annexe, but wrote of him in her diary more than 1-1/2 years later after dreaming of him.

"I've never had such a clear mental image of him. I don't need a photograph, I can see him oh so well," she said.

Read More News Dedicated...

Indonesia deforestation threatens elephants - WWF

Deforestation in a single Indonesian province is releasing more greenhouse gases than the Netherlands, and the loss of habitats is threatening rare tigers and elephants, the WWF conservation group said on Wednesday.

It said that Riau province, covering one fifth of Indonesia's Sumatra island, had lost 65 percent of its forests in the past 25 years as companies used the land for pulpwood and palm oil plantations. Big peat swamps had also been cleared.

The changes meant Riau was "generating more annual greenhouse gas emissions than the Netherlands," according to the report by WWF and partners RSS GmbH -- a German forest monitoring group -- and Japan's Hokkaido University.

At the same time, the number of Sumatran elephants and tigers in the province plunged as the forests vanished, it said.

Trees store carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, as they grow and emit it when they burn or rot. Peat swamps are also big natural stores of carbon. Worldwide, deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report said Riau accounted for average annual carbon emissions equivalent to 58 percent of Australia's yearly emissions, 39 percent of British emissions or 122 percent of the Netherlands' emissions.

The main companies operating in Riau were Singapore-based Asia Pulp & Paper and Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd (APRIL), it said.

Both have previously denied using timber from illegal sources. Staples Inc, the largest U.S. office supplies retailer, said on Feb. 8 that it stopped doing business with Asia Pulp & Paper because of environmental concerns.

The WWF said the Indonesian government promised at a 190-nation U.N. climate conference on the Indonesian island of Bali in December to provide incentives to protect remaining forests.

In the past 25 years, elephant populations in Riau fell 84 percent to only 210 animals, while tiger populations were estimated to have tumbled by 70 percent to perhaps just 192 individuals, the report said.

"Sumatra's elephants and tigers are disappearing even faster than their forests," said WWF International's Species Programme Director, Susan Lieberman. Driven from forests, they came more often into conflict with people and were killed.

Read More News Dedicated...

Iraqi group releases video of British captive - TV

One of five Britons held hostage in Iraq since May was shown in a video aired on Tuesday by Al Arabiya television, which said the captive called for the release of nine Iraqis in return for their freedom.

A man who identified himself as Peter Moore speaks in this frame grab from a video released by Al Arabiya February 26, 2008. One of five Britons held hostage in Iraq since May was shown in a video aired on Tuesday, which said the captive called for the release of nine Iraqis in return for their freedom. (REUTERS/Al Arabiya via Reuters TV)

The Britons -- a computer instructor and his four bodyguards -- were seized by a Shi'ite militant group from inside an Iraqi Finance Ministry building in a brazen raid in Baghdad last May.

"My name is Peter ... I have been held here for nearly eight months now," a man said on the undated video.

Arabiya said he called on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to free nine Iraqis to gain the release of the five.

"It's as simple as that. It's a simple exchange of people ... That's all they want. Just to have their people released and we can go home," he said.

In a statement shown by the Dubai-based television station, a group calling itself the Shi'ite Islamic Resistance in Iraq said: "We are addressing you the British people and not your government because you are keener than your government and your Queen (for the release of the five)."

The statement indicated that some or all of the nine Iraqis were held by U.S.-forces but there was no confirmed information about their identity.

There was no sign of weapons or of militants in the video.

The hostage appeared tired but not distressed. He had a scraggly beard and wore what appeared to be a white and black track suit.

"I miss my family a lot and the only thing I want is to get out of here. I tell Gordon Brown: Free their prisoners and we can go home," the man said in remarks dubbed into Arabic by the television.


Britain condemned the video, which it said was distressing to the families of the hostages.

"We urge those holding the group to release them immediately," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

"No matter what the cause, holding hostages is never justified and is never a way of making progress on any issue," it said.

Militants holding the five Britons released a video last December showing another of the hostages, who identified himself as Jason, saying they would kill one of the five unless Britain withdrew its troops from Iraq.

The December video gave Britain a deadline of 10 days to withdraw its troops but there was no sign that any of the hostages were subsequently killed.

Most of Britain's troops are stationed in the mainly Shi'ite south of Iraq.

Britain, one of Washington's staunchest allies in Iraq, handed security to Iraqi forces on Dec. 16 for Basra, the last of the four provinces it controlled in the south.

At that time Britain had about 4,500 troops left in Iraq, less than 10 percent of the force sent by former Prime Minister Tony Blair to join the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Blair's successor Brown has said the force will shrink to 2,500 by mid-2008, including a small training mission and a rapid response team on standby.

Read More News Dedicated...

ANALYSIS - Raul Castro's army could drive reform in Cuba

The rise of army generals to top political posts under Cuba's new leader Raul Castro does not signal iron-fisted rule but rather the key role the army will play as a motor for economic change.

General Julio Casas Regueiro attends a meeting of Cuba's National Assembly in Havana February 24, 2008. The rise of army generals to top political posts under Cuba's new leader Raul Castro does not signal iron-fisted rule but rather the key role the army will play as a motor for economic change. (REUTERS/Claudia Daut)

The army has over the last two decades moved from fighting wars in Africa to become Cuba's most efficient institution with a big stake in the economy through a network of profitable businesses, and experts say it can serve as a model of reform.

Raul Castro, 76, succeeded his ailing, 81-year-old brother Fidel Castro on Sunday and faces the challenge of delivering a better standard of living to Cuba's 11 million people.

His first step was to promote loyal and aging generals to the top ranks of Cuba's top governing body, the Council of State, including the chairman of the holding company that presides over military-run industries.

Military historian Hal Klepak said Raul Castro wants to reform the economy, but without departing from the socialist state built by his brother after their 1959 revolution.

The younger Castro is following Machiavelli's recommendation to rulers to surround themselves with loyalists before embarking on the risky path of change, he said.

The promotions could help Raul Castro convince hardliners in the ruling Communist Party that it is possible to reform the economy without losing control or triggering a political collapse like the one that brought down the Soviet Union.

"The army's job is to show everyone that this will not go out of control," Klepak said. "Who else is going to do it? The party can't. Only the army can tell the dinosaurs, 'Guess what? This will not be a Tiananmen Square and it will not be Eastern Europe either,'" he said.

Cubans earn on average a scant $15 a month and many are looking to Raul Castro to improve living standards.

Cuban economists say that cannot happen until productivity rises through a more efficient and disciplined economy. They expect minor tweaks to the economy, not sweeping free market reforms like those implemented by China's communist leaders.


Maj. Gen. Julio Casas Regueiro, 72, was named defense minister and one of the five second-tier vice presidents of the Council of State. And two three-star generals, Army Chief of Staff Alvaro Lopez Miera and Western Army Chief Leopoldo Lopez Cintra, were also named to the 31-member Council.

As deputy defense minister, Casas Regueiro built up a vast holding company called GAESA that manages profitable enterprises in agriculture, retail shopping and the lucrative tourism industry, owning dozens of hotels, an airline and marinas as well as bus and rent-a-car companies.

GAESA accounts for 25 percent of Cuban economic output and roughly the same proportion of all its foreign currency earnings, experts and foreign businessmen in Havana estimate.

"Casas Regueiro is one of the most trusted Raulistas. The same applies to Lopez Miera. These guys are Raulistas to the end," said Frank Mora, a Cuba watcher and professor at the National War College in Washington.

Mora said the promotions do not, however, signal a larger political role for army generals than they already have.

"They will likely continue taking the lead in the economic reforms that may come. They were already doing this, but the reforms will be more consistent," he said.

Under Regueiro, the army was first to introduce capitalist business and accounting practices in Cuba's socialist economy, importing textbooks in English and sending officers to foreign universities to get MBAs.

Casas Regueiro, a graying general who moves about in a chauffeur-driven Russian-made Lada, was the architect of the "perfeccionamiento empresarial" (enterprise enhancement) program to make state companies efficient and profitable.

"He might be old, but he is an essential figure, a man who has been at Raul's side for all things related to reform, and also utterly loyal," Klepak said.

Read More News Dedicated...

ANALYSIS - Arroyo seen immune but not innocent

They call it "sarsuwela" in the Philippines, or vaudeville.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo seen at the Malacanang presidential place in Manila in this February 14, 2008 file photo. (REUTERS/Darren Whiteside)

When television broadcasts live a Senate inquiry into corruption in which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband have been named, millions tune in.

Many have been horrified by tales of kickbacks amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars and bizarre efforts to prevent witnesses from testifying.

But ultimately, few believe the drama will play out on the streets or that Arroyo may be forced to quit.

"I don't think that you could just flick a switch on and it's going to occur tomorrow," said Mark Condon, a political risk analyst at Pacific Strategies & Assessments.

"I look at the rally sizes, and there's still not enough impetus there to make anything happen."

The Philippines is famous for two "people power" revolutions. The first in 1986 brought an end to the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, while Arroyo came to power in 2001 upon the ouster of President Joseph Estrada.

Estrada was similarly accused of corruption and removed from office when the military withdrew support after hundreds of thousands came out on the streets.

But disenchantment with what they got in his place -- Arroyo -- is making people wary of trying anything similar, analysts say. The biggest anti-Arroyo protest so far has drawn about 10,000 people.

"When they talk about people power fatigue, I think that's true," said Condon. "It's evident when you see the crowds that have been attracted. The crowds have been incredibly small."

The military is steadfast in its support of Arroyo.

And the powerful Catholic church declined on Tuesday to join calls for her resignation, although it said it strongly condemned "the continuing culture of corruption from the top to the bottom of our social and political ladder".

Most importantly, analysts say, there is no credible alternative to Arroyo, anyone who could become a rallying point for the disaffection against her.


Arroyo, 60, has weathered three impeachment attempts on charges of corruption and election fraud and at least three coups since she took office.

She appears calm and confident in public appearances, has denied the charges against her and vowed to see out her term, which ends in 2010.

Analysts say the latest revelations carry more weight than usual because of what appear to be brazen attempts by officials to prevent witnesses from testifying at the Senate.

Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada, a former government official, has broken down on national television, describing how he was taken by armed men when he landed on a flight from Hong Kong in what he believes was a move to block his testimony to the Senate on a $329 million telecommunications deal with China's ZTE Corp.

The national police chief later said he was just trying to provide security for Lozada at his own request.

"The people are really outraged, not just by the revelations but how the government tries to use all the instruments of the state just to cover this up," said Earl Parreno, an analyst at the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms.

"The information that Jun Lozada provided is more of how Malacanang (the palace) tried to cover it up."

Arroyo's defenders say she has put the economy on a roll, with growth of 7.3 percent in 2007, a three-decade high. The peso currency is trading at 8-year highs at around 40.4 to the dollar.

The gains are slow to percolate to the more vulnerable sections of society, however, and the reports of kickbacks to government officials strike an angry chord.

"I really don't feel the so-called rise in the economy, we are really having a hard time," said Sonya Mabroada, a young woman who was waiting at a bus-stop in Manila with her husband and child.

"So for me, President Arroyo needs to step down. Because this really will not end until she steps down."

Still, the outrage is not widespread, and on present evidence seems unlikely to transform into any sort of popular movement.

"I am not really convinced by what the people are doing," said Dominic Pascual, a university student in Manila. "It's all about people power, but where's the heart, where's the sense in that? It seems like people power is being overused."

Parreno, the analyst, says people are apathetic because they believe all politicians are corrupt.

"They think they've been betrayed several times," he said. "Their interests were not actually protected during People Power 1 and People Power 2."

And the popularity of the live television broadcasts?

"Sarsuwela, we call it in the Philippines" -- pure theatre.

Read More News Dedicated...

Hill stays in Beijing to work on North Korea issue

The top U.S. negotiator with North Korea stayed in Beijing for an extra day on Wednesday to work on reviving the stalled effort to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear programmes, the U.S. State Department said.

North Korea committed to abandon all nuclear weapons and programmes in exchange for economic and diplomatic benefits under a 2005 multilateral deal.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and lead representative at the Six Party talks on North Korean nuclear issues Christopher Hill listens to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addressing Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi in Beijing, February 26, 2008. (REUTERS/Adrian Bradshaw/Pool)

But the accord between the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States has become bogged down by Pyongyang's failure to produce a declaration of its nuclear programmes by the end of last year.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill cancelled plans to accompany Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Tokyo as he wants to continue talks with the Chinese, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters who flew to Japan with Rice.

Rice and Chinese President Hu Jintao had a "good conversation" about the matter on Tuesday, McCormack said, and the secretary of state asked Hill to stay behind to keep "working on the six-party talks with the Chinese".

"We came with some ideas. They had some ideas," McCormack said, saying Hill's extended stay aimed to "see if we can tease out some of these ideas".

The spokesman said there was a good atmosphere in Rice's talks in Beijing, adding "we'll see if it leads somewhere".

McCormack said he did not know what ideas Hill would discuss in Beijing or whom he would meet.

The spokesman said Hill would extend his stay in China only for one day and then resume his planned travel in the region. He had no plans to meet North Korean officials in Beijing or to visit Pyongyang.

Rice flew to Tokyo for the final stop of a three-country tour of Northeast Asia that began in Seoul for Monday's inauguration of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

In Japan, she is expected to face official complaints over a U.S. Marine's alleged rape of a 14-year old girl this month on the island of Okinawa and is expected to apologise for the incident, one of a series of crimes blamed on U.S. troops in Japan.

Read More News Dedicated...

Clinton accuses Obama of inexperience abroad

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called rival Barack Obama a risky choice to lead U.S. foreign policy even as Obama gained ground in the battleground U.S. states of Ohio and Texas on Monday.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton speaks at a fund raiser at George Washington University in Washington February 25, 2008. Clinton called rival Barack Obama a risky choice to lead U.S. foreign policy even as Obama gained ground in the battleground U.S. states of Ohio and Texas on Monday. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

With a week to go until a pivotal vote in the two states on March 4, the Democratic race took on an increasingly negative tone. After losing 11 straight contests to Obama, Clinton needs big victories in both states to salvage her campaign to be the Democratic nominee in the November election.

The Obama campaign accused the Clinton camp of "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering" when a photograph of the Illinois senator, dressed as a Somali elder with white headdress and matching robe, turned up on the Web site of the Drudge Report.

"I think the American people are saddened when they see these kind of politics," Obama told WOAI radio in San Antonio.

The Drudge Report said the photo was taken in 2006 during Obama's visit to northeastern Kenya. The Democratic front-runner has fought a whispering campaign from fringe elements that say erroneously he is a Muslim.

The Web site said in an accompanying article the photo had been circulated by Clinton campaign staffers. The Clinton campaign said it had not sanctioned the photo's release but that with 700 staffers it could not be known whether someone had sent it out unofficially.

"If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely," said Clinton campaign manager Maggie Williams.

In a foreign policy speech, Clinton said Obama had veered between pledging to meet leaders of hostile nations like Iran and Cuba if elected in November to warning of U.S. military action against al Qaeda targets in Pakistan.

"He wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve the world's intractable problems, to advocating rash, unilateral military action without cooperation from our allies in the most sensitive region of the world," Clinton said.


At a rally in Cincinnati, Obama reiterated his pledge to meet hostile foreign leaders if elected.

"We need to rediscover the power of diplomacy. So I said very early on in this campaign that I will meet not just with our friends but with our enemies, not just the leaders I like, but leaders I don't," he said.

A Quinnipiac University poll said Clinton led Obama in Ohio by 51 percent to 40 percent among likely Democratic voters.

That was a narrowing from the lead of 55 percent to 34 percent she held less than two weeks ago, and was a sign that Obama's momentum was paying dividends in Ohio.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll said Obama had edged ahead of Clinton in Texas, 50 percent to 46 percent, after having been behind her narrowly last week.

While Obama has a strong lead among Democratic voters on his ability to unite and inspire the country, Clinton is still viewed by more Democrats as better prepared for the job of president, according to a national New York Times/CBS poll.

When asked to look ahead to the general election, likely Republican nominee John McCain, is seen as better prepared for the presidency and to be commander-in-chief than either of the Democrats, the poll found.

McCain, a staunch supporter of the Iraq war, retracted an earlier statement that he would lose the November election if he did not convince Americans that the U.S. military was succeeding in Iraq.

"I don't mean that I'll, quote, lose," McCain told reporters on his campaign bus. He said what he meant is that it is an important issue for American voters.

"We will succeed in Iraq and the Iraqis will take over their responsibilities. Americans will withdraw. But Americans may have, as they have in so many other countries, a security arrangement far into the future," he said.

The Arizona senator, a former Navy aviator who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has said that withdrawing from Iraq prematurely would amount to surrender and give Islamic extremists a propaganda victory.

Clinton and Obama both advocate withdrawing U.S. troops if they are elected president.

Clinton, after a fairly civil debate with Obama last Thursday in Texas during which she said she was honored to share the stage with him, has toughened her message in the past few days, ahead of next week's critical nominating contests.

Read More News Dedicated...

McCain retracts comment he could lose on Iraq

Republican presidential front-runner John McCain on Monday retracted his earlier statement he would lose the November election if he did not convince Americans they were winning the war in Iraq.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain speaks at a town hall meeting in Rocky River, Ohio February 25, 2008. McCain on Monday retracted his earlier statement he would lose the November election if he did not convince Americans they were winning the war in Iraq. (REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)

"I don't mean that I'll, quote, lose," McCain told reporters on his campaign bus. "I mean that it's an important issue in the judgment of the American voters."

"It's not often I retract a comment," said the likely Republican nominee.

McCain, a staunch supporter of the Iraq war, said earlier in the day he would lose the election if he did not convince the American public the U.S. military was succeeding in Iraq.

Most Americans now say the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a bad idea and disapprove of the way President George W. Bush has waged it.

Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both advocate withdrawing U.S. troops if they are elected president.

McCain, a former Navy aviator who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, often says on the campaign trail that withdrawing from Iraq prematurely would amount to surrender and give Islamic extremists a propaganda victory.

The Arizona senator has criticized how the war was waged under former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who was replaced in late 2006. McCain says the country has made important strides in security and political stability since the United States increased its troop presence last year.

McCain has said U.S. troops may have to maintain a presence in Iraq for up to 100 years, a statement that has drawn criticism from Democrats. McCain has added he expects casualties to decline as Iraqi troops take on more security duties.

On his campaign bus on Monday, McCain pointed out U.S. troops were still stationed in Japan, Germany, South Korea and Bosnia although those wars have ended.

"We will succeed in Iraq and the Iraqis will take over their responsibilities. Americans will withdraw. But Americans may have, as they have in so many other countries, a security arrangement far into the future," he said.

Read More News Dedicated...

Archeologists find 5,500-year-old plaza in Peru

A ceremonial plaza built 5,500 years ago has been discovered in Peru, and archeologists involved in the dig said on Monday carbon dating shows it is one of the oldest structures ever found in the Americas.

A team of Peruvian and German archeologists uncovered the circular plaza, which was hidden beneath another piece of architecture at the ruins known as Sechin Bajo, in Casma, 370 km north of Lima, the capital. Friezes depicting a warrior with a knife and trophies were found near the plaza.

"It's an impressive find; the scientific and archeology communities are very happy," said Cesar Perez, the scientist at Peru's National Institute of Culture who supervised the project. "This could redesign the history of the country."

Prior to the discovery at Sechin Bajo, archeologists considered the ancient Peruvian citadel of Caral to be one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere, at about 5,000 years.

Scientists say Caral, located a few hours drive from Sechin Bajo, was one of six places in the world -- along with Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India and Mesoamerica -- where humans started living in cities about 5,000 years ago.

"The dating done by the German archeologists puts it at about 5,500 years," Perez said of the plaza, which has a diameter of about 14 metres.

Earlier finds near Sechin Bajo had been dated at 3,600 years, and there may be other pieces of the citadel older than the plaza.

"We've found other pieces of architecture underneath the plaza that could be even older," German Yenque, an archeologist at the dig site, told Reuters. "There are four or five plazas deeper down, which means the structure was rebuilt several times, perhaps every 100 to 300 years."

Hundreds of archeological sites dot the country, and many of the ruined structures were built by cultures that preceded the powerful Incan empire, which reached its peak in the 16th century, just before Spanish conquerors arrived in what is now Peru.

There are so many archeological treasures that tomb robbing is a widespread problem in the Andean country.

Yenque said the scientists are filling in the site with dirt to preserve it and plan to resume excavation of the deeper floors when they get more grants to fund the project.

"We are lucky it was never destroyed by tomb robbers; that is why we are covering it up now," Yenque said.

Read More News Dedicated...

Pfizer pulls Lipitor ads with heart expert Jarvik

Pfizer Inc said on Monday it was pulling advertisements for its Lipitor cholesterol drug featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the Jarvik artificial heart, because they created "misimpressions."

The Pfizer headquarters in New York is seen in this August 31, 2003 file photo. Pfizer Inc said on Monday it was pulling advertisements for its Lipitor cholesterol drug featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the Jarvik artificial heart, because they created "misimpressions." (REUTERS/Jeff Christensen/Files)

The ads involving Jarvik had come under scrutiny from a U.S. House of Representative committee as part of an investigation into celebrity endorsements of prescription medicines.

Democratic lawmakers had voiced concern that Jarvik's qualifications were misrepresented in widely seen television commercials touting the blockbuster drug. They said Jarvik seemed to be dispensing medical advice even though he is not a practicing physician.

The commercials, which portray Jarvik in various outdoor activities, also raised eyebrows after news reports that a stunt double was used in a scene with a man rowing across a lake.

On his company's Web site, Jarvik describes himself as a medical scientist who has worked in the field of artificial hearts for 36 years and does not practice clinical medicine or treat individual patients.

Pfizer, the world's largest drugmaker, said it was withdrawing the Jarvik ads voluntarily.

"The way in which we presented Dr. Jarvik in these ads has, unfortunately, led to misimpressions and distractions from our primary goal of encouraging patient and physician dialogue on the leading cause of death in the world -- cardiovascular disease. We regret this," Ian Read, Pfizer's president of worldwide pharmaceutical operations, said in a statement.

"Going forward, we commit to ensuring there is greater clarity in our advertising regarding the presentation of spokespeople," Read said.

New Lipitor campaigns will be launched in several weeks, Read added.

Lipitor, part of the statin family of cholesterol-lowering medicines, is the world's best-selling prescription drug. Global sales fell 2 percent to $12.7 billion in 2007, hurt by competition from low-cost generic forms of Merck & Co Inc's Zocor.

Lawmakers probing the Jarvik ads praised Pfizer's decision to stop running them.

"We trust that Pfizer is sincere in its commitment to 'greater clarity' in its advertising. My colleagues and I look forward to meeting with Pfizer's management team to discuss their plans related to direct-to-consumer advertising," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell said in a statement.

Rep. Bart Stupak, who chairs the panel's subcommittee on investigations, said lawmakers still planned to meet with Jarvik and collect and review documents requested as part of the investigation. Dingell and Stupak are both Michigan Democrats.

Officials at Jarvik Heart Inc in New York, where Jarvik serves as president and chief executive, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

In a statement issued in January, Jarvik said he had the "training, experience and medical knowledge to understand the conclusions of the extensive clinical trials" of Lipitor.

Lipitor is known generically as atorvastatin. Zocor's generic name is simvastatin.

Read More News Dedicated...

Being overweight can damage your career - study

Being overweight or obese is not only bad for your health but can also be bad for your career, according to a U.S. study.

As obesity rates in the United States rise, researchers at Detroit's Wayne State University looked at over 25 years of research on weight-based bias in the workplace to see whether being overweight hindered the chance of getting a job or moving up the work ladder.

A woman walks along the boardwalk while leaving the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York in this September 4, 2007 file photo. Being overweight or obese is not only bad for your health but can also be bad for your career, according to a U.S. study. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

After examining the results of 25 separate studies, they concluded that obesity does have a denigrating effect in the workplace, with the weight-based bias stronger for sales positions than for managerial positions.

"There are a whole set of stereotypes that go along with being overweight, and a lot of them transfer into the workplace in terms of people's judgment about others' abilities and appearance in relation to job performance," researcher Cort Rudolph said in a statement.

The researchers found the results of all the studies examined were consistent in finding that people who are overweight are viewed more negatively in the workplace than those who are of average weight.

The bias was felt most when overweight people applied for a job and went through the initial selection process with body weight found to be less of a factor at the performance evaluation stage, and with stereotypes having a minimum influence when it comes to promotions.

Rudolph said this was not surprising based on what was known about weight-based stereotypes.

"Some of the basic stereotypes associated with being overweight include laziness, sloppiness, untidiness and lack of self-discipline and control," he said.

"Overweight people are also regularly labeled as having increased health problems, which is an issue often considered cumbersome by organizations."

But Rudolph, who will present the study's findings at a conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in San Francisco in April, said there was good news for overweight employees.

"The bias effect tends to decrease as people's tenure with an organization increases," he said.

Rudolph said this was an issue that could become more a problem as Americans became heavier.

"Considering this growth, stigmas associated with body weight can become more and more of an issue," he said.

Read More News Dedicated...

Iconic Philippine leader calls on Arroyo to quit

Iconic Philippine leader Corazon Aquino called on Tuesday for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo over a kickbacks scandal, saying she had lost the moral right to remain in office.

The comments by Aquino, who served as president after the ouster of strongman Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 "People Power" revolution, are a blow for Arroyo but should not materially affect her position.

Former Philippine president Corazon Aquino is seen in Manila in this August 21, 2007 file photo. Aquino called on Tuesday for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo over a kickbacks scandal, saying she had lost the moral right to remain in office. (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/Files)

Aquino has called for Arroyo's resignation before, over charges of cheating in the 2004 presidential elections, but the president was not affected.

"Our guiding light should not be an obsession to evict the president," Aquino said in a speech to the influential Makati Business Club of local industry leaders.

"But in an environment where abuse of power closes all doors of legitimate redress, sadly we are too often pushed to the brink. That is why the most noble -- and least disruptive -- way out of the moral crisis would be for the president to resign.

"These critical times call for strong moral leadership, which clearly she is no longer in a position to provide."

Allegations of $130 million worth of kickbacks in a $329 million government telecoms deal with China's ZTE Corp. have bedevilled Arroyo for the past few months, and her husband has been named by witnesses testifying at a Senate inquiry into the deal.

But Arroyo has already survived three impeachment bids and at least three coup plots and has vowed to see out her final term, which ends in 2010.

Political analysts say she will likely do so because the powerful Catholic Church has not come out directly against her and she enjoys the support of the military and the lower house of Congress.

Arroyo has cancelled the ZTE deal and said on Tuesday that inquiries by the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice into the kickbacks allegations should be open so that the public could judge what was happening.

"This is the new people power, vigilance in the process of law to ferret out the whole truth," she said in her televised comments.

Read More News Dedicated...

China, Pakistan, Vietnam on bird flu alert

China and Pakistan have announced bird flu outbreaks among poultry, a day after two women, one in China and one in neighbouring Vietnam, died of the virus.

A vendor carries chickens at a poultry market in Guangzhou, Guangdong province February 25, 2008. China and Pakistan have announced bird flu outbreaks among poultry, a day after two women, one in China and one in neighbouring Vietnam, died of the virus. (REUTERS/Stringer)

The Chinese outbreak, first noticed on Feb. 17 in Zunyi in the southwestern province of Guizhou, had killed nearly 4,000 birds and triggered the culling of more than 238,000, Xinhua news agency said late on Monday, citing the Ministry of Agriculture.

China has reported four outbreaks of the disease in poultry since December, when average temperatures across the country hit their lowest in decades. Bird flu tends to be more active in the cold.

Experts fear the H5N1 strain could mutate or combine with the highly contagious seasonal influenza virus and spark a pandemic. With the world's biggest poultry population and hundreds of millions of farmers raising birds in their backyards, China is seen as crucial in the global fight against the disease.

Pakistani authorities found a fresh outbreak of H5N1 in chickens, the fourth case in a month, in the southern city of Karachi, a government official said on Tuesday.

Pakistan confirmed its first human death from the virus near the northwestern town of Abbottabad in December.

China has reported three confirmed human deaths from bird flu this year, the most recent in the southern province of Guangdong, neighbouring Hong Kong.

The woman, a 44-year-old migrant worker, probably contracted the H5N1 virus from sick poultry she kept in her backyard, Hong Kong government health officials said.

The spate of cases is a concern for a country that has the world's biggest poultry population, many of them backyard birds roaming free. China has struggled to combat the virus with mass inoculations for birds and an education campaign for those who handle them.

State-run Voice of Vietnam radio said on Tuesday a woman teacher had died from H5N1 in the north of the country, the fourth death from the virus this year.

The 23-year-old woman died on Monday at a Hanoi hospital after falling sick as she ate chicken in her home province of Phu Tho, the radio quoted the Health Ministry as saying.

In communist-run Vietnam, official announcements are often made in state-run media.

The woman's death is the fourth out of five people infected by bird flu so far this year in Vietnam after an extended cold spell in northern provinces.

Excluding the two deaths on Monday, bird flu has killed 232 people among the 366 known cases globally, among them 50 deaths in Vietnam, the World Health Organisation has said.

Read More News Dedicated...

China military paper urges long-term defence budget rises

China needs to increase defence spending to keep pace with economic growth and overcome historic shortfalls, the military's newspaper said on Tuesday.

China's official defence budget for 2007 was $45 billion, a rise of 17.8 percent on the previous budget that continued a string of double-digit military spending rises for a decade.

Reservists of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) are seen attending a ceremony at a stadium in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu province, in this April 28, 2007 file photo. China needs to increase defence spending to keep pace with economic growth and overcome historic shortfalls, the military's newspaper said on Tuesday. (REUTERS/Jeff Xu/Files)

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) official budget for 2008 is likely to be unveiled shortly before the national parliament meets for its annual session in early March.

The repeated rises have prompted worried calls from other countries for Beijing to explain more clearly how and why the PLA is spending its extra money.

China focuses many of its navy ships, missiles and military aircraft on Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing claims as its own and says must accept eventual reunification.

The Pentagon has estimated China's true military budget could be more than double the public number.

But in an unusually blunt piece of public lobbying, China's Liberation Army Daily warned of grave consequences if increases in defence spending did not continue, arguing that the rises were making up for slimmed budgets for much of the 1980s and 1990s, when economic priorities squeezed spending.

"When economic conditions improve, this (defence spending) shortfall must be compensated. Otherwise there will be dire consequences," the paper said.

"Now the time has come when we must increase defence spending to make up for historic arrears."

The paper estimated that defence spending must keep rising until 2030 to make up for past tight budgets and to properly reflect China's growing economic strength.

"To make up for the arrears, naturally there must be compensatory increases in military spending that are higher than the rate of economic growth," the paper said.

"Our country's current rises in military spending are merely bringing that spending into step with economic growth ... but we are far from completing this compensation and closing the shortfall."

The report did not specify what levels of spending would satisfy PLA needs.

Faced with international calls for greater military candour, China has often said its intentions are peaceful and pointed to the much higher budget of the Pentagon.

The Bush administration asked for $484.1 billion for the Defense Department in the fiscal year from October 2007. That figure does not cover military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read More News Dedicated...