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World in brief: Chinese leader visits Japan

Wed., May 7, 2008, midnight

President Hu Jintao, on the first visit to Japan by a Chinese leader in 10 years, called Tuesday for the Asian giants to improve their often strained relations and – as a show of goodwill – reportedly offered to lend Tokyo a pair of pandas.

But protests continued to dog China on the international stage ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing, with hundreds of protesters marching to demand a “free Tibet.” Thousands of riot police mobilized to ensure Hu’s safety.

Hu and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, hoping to underscore the positive during the Chinese leader’s five-day stay, hope pingpong and pandas will take the edge off more contentious problems like border disputes, historical animosity and concerns over China’s rule in Tibet.

“We stand at a new starting point,” Hu said after his arrival. “We must develop our strategic partnership.”

Hu, the first Chinese president to come to Tokyo since Jiang Zemin in 1998, was to be given the full state guest treatment.

After a private dinner Tuesday night with Fukuda, he was greeted in a ceremony early today by Emperor Akihito. Hu was to launch into talks with Fukuda later today, and then meet with business executives and the heads of Japan’s main political parties.

Cairo, Egypt

Gas, cigarette taxes to fund pay raises

Egyptians awoke Tuesday to steep fuel and cigarette price hikes aimed at funding new raises for government workers, prompting fears that people already weighed down by skyrocketing food prices will be struggling to buy basic goods.

People raced to gas stations to fill up Tuesday morning, only to find the average price of gasoline and diesel had shot up 46 percent, to 34 cents a liter, which is about a quart.

Last week, President Hosni Mubarak ordered a 30 percent pay raise for all government and public sector employees – almost 6 million people – temporarily assuaging a population increasingly restive over stagnant wages and rising food prices.

But to raise the $3.6 billion for the salary hikes, Egypt’s parliament passed a bill late Monday increasing taxes and cigarette prices, reducing fuel subsidies and removing tax breaks from private education and heavy industry.

Golden, B.C.

Three string up dead bear on bridge

A dead bear has been found hanging from a pedestrian bridge in Golden, B.C.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in the Rocky Mountains foothills town says three men were involved.

Constable Kate Bember says surveillance videotape showed the trio stringing up the bear early Monday, shortly after midnight.

She says an area resident found the animal and called a conservation officer, who told him to cut down the bear and let it float away down the Kicking Horse River.

As a result, authorities don’t know how the bear died before it was strung up.

Police have asked that those who participated in the bear hanging come forward.


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