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Ex-foreign minister to seek top spot

Japan’s brash, right-leaning former foreign minister announced today that he would run for ruling party president in a move that would put him on track to take over as Japan’s next prime minister.

Taro Aso, 67, is widely considered the front-runner to replace struggling Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who announced Monday that he would step down amid sagging poll numbers and troubles with the split parliament.

Aso’s candidacy for the Sept. 22 vote in the Liberal Democratic Party was widely expected. The LDP election is expected to be followed on Sept. 24 with a vote in parliament for prime minister. The party’s hold on the powerful lower house all but guarantees that the LDP president will then be elected premier.

Bangkok, Thailand

Shooting spurs caution on protests

Thai police warned students today to avoid street protests after a gunman shot and wounded two students demonstrating against the embattled prime minister, raising new fears of violence in the country’s tense political crisis.

The attack came after Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej proposed a national referendum Thursday to decide his political fate, an unconventional compromise that was dismissed by critics as a stalling tactic that will prolong the unrest.

About 100 students were marching to demonstrate outside of Samak’s home in the capital, Bangkok, late Thursday when an unidentified gunman on the back of a motorcycle opened fire on the crowd. One of the students was shot in his left leg, the other in his left arm.

From wire reports