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US Accepts Burma's Invitation to Observe April 1 Vote

The United States said it has accepted Burma's invitation to send two election observers and three journalists to monitor and report on upcoming by-elections in the Southeast Asian nation.

Burma Invites US, EU to Observe April 1 Balloting

U.S. and European officials say they have been invited to send teams to observe Burma's April 1 by-elections.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Rangoon confirmed the invitation to VOA and other news organizations Wednesday — at the same time a Bangkok-based elections monitoring group said its top coordinator was expelled from Burma.

Peru Cancels British Ship Arrival Over Falkland Islands Dispute

Peru has canceled a scheduled visit by a British naval warship to show its support for Argentina in its long-standing dispute with Britain over control of the Falkland Islands.

The frigate Montrose was scheduled to arrive Thursday at Peru's naval port of Callao for a friendly visit. But Peruvian Foreign Minister Rafael Roncagliolo said Monday the visit was scrapped as part of an agreement among the 12-member Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) supporting Argentina.

Eritrea Calls for UN to Respond After Ethiopian Attack

Eritrea is calling for the United Nations to impose penalties on arch-rival Ethiopia, after Ethiopian forces attacked a military base inside Eritrea.

In a statement Friday, Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh said the incursion is part of a history of “unlawful and provocative attacks” by Ethiopia. He urged the U.N. Security Council to take measures to “ensure justice and the respect of the rule of law.”

Ethiopia said Thursday the attack was against two military posts that “subversive groups” used to carry out attacks in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia Attacks Military Base Inside Eritrea

Ethiopian troops have carried out a cross-border attack against military training camps inside Eritrea.

Ethiopia's statement

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal says Ethiopian troops crossed into Eritrea early Thursday to strike military outposts used by what he calls '"hit-and-run" subversive groups operating in the remote region.

Japan Indicts Chinese Trawler Captain

Japan has indicted the Chinese fishing trawler captain who sparked an international incident in 2010 when he rammed two Japanese naval craft near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea.

The formal indictment, announced Thursday, came after an independent inquest panel overturned a decision by prosecutors to drop charges against the captain .

Vietnam Jails 8 Ethnic Hmong for Unrest

A court in northwestern Vietnam has sent eight ethnic Hmong tribesmen to prison for up to 30 months, for what the government describes as disturbing social order and inciting separatist unrest last year. Supporters say the minority Christian defendants were participating in a religious convocation.

The official Vietnam News Agency, in a report Wednesday, described the defendants as “illiterates” who “admitted to not knowing the illegal nature of their activities.” Presiding Judge Phan Van Nam is quoted by the Associated Press as saying police are still hunting for three ringleaders.

80,000 Syrians Take Refuge in Jordan

The Syrian government's assault on opposition strongholds is causing more and more people to flee the country. Neighboring countries such as Jordan are trying to help them, but the influx is straining limited resources.

Early morning at this makeshift camp near Karama in the Jordan River Valley. Some of the 80,000 Syrians who have taken refuge in Jordan have come to this farming area hoping to find work.

Zimbabwe's PM Warns Military Will Disregard Election Results

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says the country's military leaders have told him they will not allow anyone but President Robert Mugabe to rule the country, regardless of who wins an election.

At a press conference Thursday in the capital, Harare, Tsvangirai said he and his MDC party do not want a war, and that is why they are insisting on constitutional reforms before any vote is held.

UN Envoy Warns Against Arming Syrian Rebels

The U.N.-Arab League special envoy on Syria, Kofi Annan, says arming Syrian rebel soldiers "will make this situation worse." Meanwhile, a deputy Syrian oil minister resigned after 33 years of government service, saying he didn't want to end his career "abetting the crimes of the regime.”

Former U.N. Secretary-General Annan began a fresh diplomatic push Thursday to seek a solution to the year-old conflict in Syria with a stop in Cairo. Annan, who is due to visit Syria Saturday, said his mission is to put an end to the violence.

Pakistan Considers Re-Opening NATO Supply Routes

Pakistan's parliament is expected draw up rules of engagement and increased transit fees the United States and NATO must agree to before it will reopen the border for military convoys heading into Afghanistan. Pakistan closed the vital supply route last November when American air strikes killed 24 Pakistani troops in a "friendly fire" incident.

In mid-March a Pakistan Senate session will open, and a parliament review of all cooperative arrangements with the United States and NATO is expected to top the agenda.

Burmese Authorities Detain Activist Monk

Relatives of a Buddhist monk who led Burma's 2007 Saffron Revolution say he has been detained for questioning by authorities.

Ashin Gambiya's older brother, Aung Kyaw Kyaw, told VOA's Burmese service that Gambiya was arrested by members of Burma's military intelligence department (Special Branch) late Tuesday at his sister's home in Rangoon.

He says the two were scheduled to meet with the British ambassador on Wednesday.

Russian Opposition Calls for Civil Disobedience

Prominent Russian activist Alexei Navalny is promising a campaign of civil disobedience against what he says was a stolen presidential election by Vladimir Putin.

Navalny says tens of thousands of people will turn out for street protests in Russian cities and will keep up the protests until their demands are met.

Police arrested Navalny and hundreds of other opposition supporters at an anti-Putin rally in Moscow Monday. He was later released. Many of the protesters chanted "Russia without Putin" and "Power to millions, not to the police."

China Boosts 2012 Military Spending

China is planning a double-digit rise in military spending this year, an increase authorities say is in line with the country's economic development and defense needs.

Li Zhaoxing, the spokesman for the National People's Congress, announced on Sunday the overall figure for China's 2012 military spending.

Li says the defense budget will be about $110 billion (670.2 billion RMB), which represents an 11.2 percent increase over what was spent last year.

COMMAND GUIDANCE

With all the focus on the War on Terror, one service has been neglected, and yet, it may be the most important service: the United States Navy. This has been the result of two decades of neglect starting just as the U.S. Navy had not only been crucial in America’s triumph over the Soviet Union, but also in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Yet with a growing crisis with Iran centering around threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, America may pay a price for its neglect of the fleet.