December 23, 2008 in Nation/World

Pandas off to Taiwan in goodwill gesture

 
Associated Press photo

Children in panda costumes attend the send-off for pandas Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan today.
(Full-size photo)

A pair of pandas in China set off today on their long-awaited goodwill journey to their new home in Taiwan after a breakfast of carrots and steamed corn buns and a teary farewell from their keeper, state media reported.

Four-year-old Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan left their breeding base in Ya’an in southwest China’s Sichuan province after a brief send-off ceremony, Xinhua News Agency said.

“I wish them a happy life in Taiwan,” Xinhua quoted tearful Ya’an panda keeper Qu Chunmao as saying.

Beijing first offered the pandas to Taiwan in 2005 hoping they would strengthen Taiwanese public support for reuniting with the mainland, an offer rejected by the island’s former leaders who supported independence for the self-governed island. Current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has tried to nurture closer ties with the mainland and accepted the pandas as a goodwill gesture.

JERUSALEM

Hamas makes bid to renew truce

Gaza’s ruling Hamas on Monday ordered militants to hold their fire for 24 hours and said a truce with Israel could be restored, but as rockets continued to fall, Israel signaled it was preparing for a possible offensive.

In an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 TV, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar indicated that Hamas is interested in renewing the truce with Israel.

“The price is the lives of the Palestinian people,” he said, demanding regular food and electricity supplies from Israel along with stopping Israeli military actions in the West Bank as well as Gaza.

Hamas said militants were told Monday to halt rocket fire for 24 hours to see if Israel would allow vital supplies to be shipped into Gaza.

Smaller factions that also attack Israel, including the Islamic Jihad, said they received no such order, and another Hamas official, Ayman Taha, threatened a renewal of suicide bombings in Israel.

BEIJING

China’s navy to take on pirates

The Defense Ministry said three warships plan to depart Friday on a mission to protect Chinese vessels and crews from pirate attacks in waters off Somalia, in what will be China’s first major naval operation abroad.

The two destroyers and a supply ship will depart from the island province of Hainan in southern China, ministry spokesman Huang Xueping said at a news conference today.

He said during the mission the Chinese navy was willing to work with other navies.

Piracy has taken an increasing toll on international shipping. Last week, the Foreign Ministry said about 20 percent of the 1,265 Chinese ships passing through the area had come under attack this year.

From wire reports


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