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S. Korea, U.S. wrap up Foal Eagle military drill

By Kim Eun-jung SEOUL, April 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States finished a two-month long military drill on Friday after conducting a series of combat field trainings aimed at enhancing their joint combat readiness against North Korea. The Foal Eagle exercise, which began in late February shortly after reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, has heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula as Pyongyang angrily responded to the annual drill. It mobilized 200,000 South Korean forces and 7,500 American troops.

Asian markets closed

Financial markets in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines and India are closed Friday for public holidays. afp

Morocco king in rare visit to W.Sahara before UN vote

Morocco's King Mohamed VI made a rare visit Thursday to the Western Sahara, ahead of a UN Security Council vote on the disputed territory, an AFP correspondent said. The UN Security Council is due to vote on April 23 to renew the mandate of its peacekeeping mission in the Western Sahara, which was annexed by Morocco in the 1970s. Earlier this month the king warned UN chief Ban Ki-moon of "perilous options" in the Western Sahara, saying the UN role there should remain unchanged.

UN protests Burundi move to expel envoy

The United Nations expressed "regret" over Burundi's decision Thursday to throw a senior UN official out of the country following a damning report alleging guns were being distributed ahead of elections. The leaked internal UN report has raised fears of a return to civil war and the government has been warned about the risk, said Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. "Repeatedly over the last two weeks we have brought up the issue of the arming of youth groups to the government of Burundi," said Dujarric.

Still stuck in economic crisis, Italy again sets back date to balance budget; now aim is 2016

ROME - Italy has again pushed back its balanced-budget goal, now aiming for 2016. Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan wrote to the European Commission this week, saying that because of Italy's stubborn economic crisis, it's now aiming for a balanced structural budget in 2016. In 2011, then-Premier Silvio Berlusconi had promised that Italy would balance its budget by 2013. But with the country mired in recession, in 2012, during economist Mario Monti's government, the date was rolled back to 2015.

Bailed-out Cyprus to issue 6-year bond in June as first test in return to global debt markets

NICOSIA, Cyprus - Bailed-out Cyprus says it will issue six-year government bonds every month starting in June as a first step to returning more permanently to international markets after a three-year absence. Investor interest in European government debt has risen in recent months, reducing the countries' borrowing rates and allowing countries like Greece and Cyprus to tap markets for money. Greece this month sold its first long-term bond since its crisis began four years ago.

Burundi orders U.N. security adviser out after violence warning

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Burundi ordered a security adviser at the United Nations mission in the country to leave on Thursday, escalating a row that started with a warning by the U.N. last week of a possible outbreak of political violence. Government officials in the tiny central African state reacted angrily to the warning by the U.N. mission on Wednesday, saying it was baseless and had possibly been made to justify an extension of its mandate beyond its December expiry date.

Tunisian diplomat kidnapped in Libya: security source

A Tunisian diplomat was kidnapped Thursday in Tripoli in unknown circumstances, a Libyan security source told AFP, just two days after armed men seized Jordan's ambassador. A Tunisian source confirmed the abduction and identified the diplomat as Al-Aroussi Kontassi, without giving further details. Tunis's ambassador to Libya, Ridha Boukadi, refused to comment. Libyan foreign ministry spokesman Said Lessoued said he could not confirm or deny the reported abduction, the latest in a string of incidents targeting foreign diplomats and Libyan politicians.

Obama offers deepest sympathy to South Korea

US President Barack Obama on Thursday offered "deepest sympathies" to the families of the victims of a ferry sinking in South Korea, from which nearly 300 people, mostly children, are missing. "The bonds of friendship between the American and Korean people are strong and enduring," Obama said in a statement also offering the condolences of his wife Michelle. "Our hearts ache to see our Korean friends going through such a terrible loss, especially the loss of so many young students.

Burundi orders U.N. security adviser out after violence warning

BUJUMBURA (Reuters) - Burundi ordered a security adviser at the United Nations mission in the country to leave on Thursday, escalating a row that started with a warning by the U.N. last week of a possible outbreak of political violence. Government officials in the tiny central African state reacted angrily to the warning by the U.N. mission (BNUB) on Wednesday, saying it was baseless and possibly spread to justify an extension of its mandate beyond its December expiration date.
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