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CHINA
China says it will back Sri Lanka and oppose a proposed U.N. resolution calling on the island nation to probe wartime rights abuses. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a news conference yesterday that China believes the Sri Lankan government and people are capable of dealing with the issue themselves. Sri Lanka’s government sees the U.S.-backed resolution as interference in the country’s internal affairs.

-China has ordered lawyers to pledge allegiance to the ruling Communist Party in a new edict that has caused outrage among rights attorneys, who say it goes against the rule of law. More on p9

TAIWAN
Taiwan’s military says a former army captain who defected to China and became a top economist should not return for a visit because he violated the “core value” of loyalty. Justin Yifu Lin reportedly swam from his army base in Kinmen to southern China in 1979. He is now a leading economist in China and a World Bank vice president. Defense Minister Kao Hua-chu yesterday rejected an appeal to pardon Lin.

VIETNAM
China said yesterday the detention of two Vietnamese fishing boats and 21 crew near the disputed Paracel Islands was lawful, after Hanoi demanded their “immediate and unconditional” release. Hanoi has said the March 3 arrests “seriously violated Vietnam’s sovereignty” and that China must stop its “hindrance of Vietnamese fishermen”. More on p10

N. KOREA
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says North Korea’s plan to launch a long-range rocket next month threatens regional peace. More on p10

THAILAND
Four Thai policemen have been arrested after they seized narcotics worth $1 million in raids on drug gangs and kept them to sell themselves, senior police said.

INDONESIA
An Indonesian militant is now insisting that he did not assemble the car bomb used in the 2002 Bali nightclub blasts. Umar Patek, a leading member of the al-Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah, told a court yesterday that he did not have the expertise to build an explosive as big and deadly as the bomb placed in a van outside two throbbing clubs. Despite the denial, Patek earlier gave investigators a highly detailed description of how he painstakingly helped build the bomb over a six-day period. Patek faces a maximum penalty of death if he is found guilty of various terror-related and criminal charges, including the Bali attacks that left 202 people dead. Most of the victims were foreigners.

AUSTRALIA
Australia’s most wanted fugitive -- a survival expert and suspected murderer who outwitted police for seven years by living in rugged forest  was finally captured in a remote cabin yesterday. More on p27

SYRIA
Syrian regime troops and rebels clashed anew yesterday as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said the Security Council sent a clear message to Damascus that all violence must stop immediately to allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid. More on p28

FRANCE
A self-proclaimed Al-Qaeda militant died in a hail of bullets yesterday as he jumped out of an apartment window at the end of a 32-hour siege. Mohamed Merah, the main suspect in a wave of shootings that killed seven people, had tried to blast his way out of the siege in the city of Toulouse after members of an elite force known as RAID entered his flat. More on p29

PORTUGAL
A strike by Portugal’s largest trade union confederation to protest austerity measures and labor reforms disrupted public transport services yesterday. More on p31

YEMEN
Al-Qaida’s Yemen branch said yesterday that it killed an American teacher because he was trying to spread Christianity in the mainly Muslim Arab nation. Joel Shrum, a 29-year-old native of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, was gunned down on Sunday in the central city of Taiz, where he had been living with his wife and two sons.

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