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Ratings of Japan PM, ruling party fall on scandal

Ratings of Japan PM, ruling party fallonscandal

TOKYO (Reuters) – Voter support for Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his party has fallen due to a funding scandal linked to his powerful No.2 party executive, two media surveys showed on Monday, raising the risk of a policy stalemate.

Opposition parties have threatened to boycott parliamentary debate on an extra budget to prop up the economy if the ruling Democratic Party dodges questions about the scandal ensnaring its secretary-general, Ichiro Ozawa.

The scandal could also threaten the Democrats’ chances of gaining a majority in a mid-year election for parliament’s upper house that they need to win to pass legislation smoothly.

Support for Hatoyama’s cabinet, which had already slid since he took office four months ago due to voters’ doubts about his leadership, fell to 42 percent in an Asahi newspaper poll from 48 the previous month. That was down from initial highs above 70 percent after Hatoyama took power last September.

A Yomiuri newspaper survey showed a steeper drop to 45 percent from 56 percent earlier this month.

Prosecutors have arrested three current and former Ozawa aides. Japanese media say they are probing the source of funds improperly reported by Ozawa’s funding group, and suspect construction firms seeking government contracts were involved.

Hatoyama said on Saturday he would back Ozawa’s decision to stay on in his key post and urged him to fight on.

That stance has drawn fire from Japanese media and the opposition as suggesting bias against the prosecutors, but Kyodo news agency said the premier repeated his position on Monday.

PRESSURE TO RESIGN

Equally disturbing for the government, the percentage of those planning to vote for the ruling party in the upper house election fell to 28 percent from 35 percent in the Yomiuri poll.

That compared to 21 percent who said they would opt for the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), little changed.

But 70 percent of respondents to the Yomiuri survey said Ozawa, who stepped down as party leader last year over a separate scandal, should resign from his No. 2 post.

“We must accept the figures from the polls sincerely,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told a news conference.

“Parliament opens today and our mission is to enact the extra budget as quickly as possible … and by so doing, realise policies that put priority on the people’s livelihoods.”

The Democrats and their allies could ignore any opposition boycott but doing so could further erode voter support.

The Democrats swept to power in an August election that ended more than half a century of nearly unbroken LDP rule, pledging to refocus spending on consumers and cut wasteful spending to help rein in Japan’s ballooning public debt.

But they need to win an outright majority in parliament’s less powerful upper chamber to break free of two small allies who often disagree on policy and ensure smooth passage of laws.

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Afternoon Muslim prayers a test for China’s Xinjiang

in.reuters.com

Afternoon Muslim prayers a test for China’s Xinjiang

URUMQI, China – Hundreds of Uighur Muslims crowded into at least one mosque in riot-stricken Urumqi on Friday after authorities relented on a decision to close mosques for the main day of prayer to minimize ethnic tension.

Security forces have imposed control over Urumqi, but the afternoon prayers will be a test of the government’s ability to contain Uighur anger after Han Chinese, China’s predominant ethnic group, attacked Uighur neighbourhoods on Tuesday.

Those attacks were in revenge for the deaths of 156 people in Uighur rioting on Sunday, the region’s worst ethnic violence in decades.

The decision to silence collective prayers could rankle, but thousands of troops and anti-riot police appeared ready to quell any fresh Uighur protests. Nearly all Uighurs are Muslim, but few adhere to the strictest interpretations of Islam.

Beijing cannot afford to lose its grip on the vast territory that borders Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, has abundant oil reserves and is China’s largest natural gas-producing region.

About 500 Uighurs surged outside the White Mosque, in a Uighur neighbourhood, trying to join about 1,000 packed inside for prayers. Worshippers who emerged said the normal prayers had been shortened.

“I’m glad they are letting us in today,” said a middle-aged Uighur named Ahmedadji. “There would have been a lot of unhappiness if they hadn’t.”

Other mosques frequented by Hui, a Muslim group akin to Han Chinese, opened their doors on Friday after crowds of a few hundred worshippers began shouting.

Mosques in the overwhelmingly Uighur bazaar district of Urumqi earlier displayed notices that prayers had been suspended.

A cluster of Uighurs outside the big Dong Kuruk Bridge Mosque said they were angry and disappointed it hadn’t opened.

“We feel we are being insulted. This is our mosque. But we are not allowed in, while they let in non-believers,” said a young man, pointing out that Chinese security forces had been stationed inside and even in the minarets jutting out above an adjacent expressway.

“Under instructions from superiors, normal prayer will be suspended from today,” said a notice at the gateway of the nearby Guyuan Mosque. It was dated Wednesday. “Anybody wishing to pray … please do so at home.”

China’s ruling Communist Party may fear that big Uighur religious gatherings could become another catalyst for unrest after a week of ethnic strife.

Uighurs, a Turkic people who are largely Muslim and share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia, make up almost half of Xinjiang’s 20 million people.

President Hu Jintao, forced to abandon a G8 summit in Italy by the ethnic violence in Xinjiang, has said maintaining social stability in the energy-rich region is the “most urgent task”.

Hu described the Sunday riots as a “serious violent crime elaborately planned and organised by ‘three forces’ at home and abroad”.

“Three forces” is a term China uses to refer to religious extremists, separatists and terrorists it says menace Xinjiang.

There appears little likelihood that China will slow its drive to punish those found guilty of killing Urumqi residents in the Sunday mayhem, when cars and buses were burnt.

On Tuesday, thousands of Han Chinese, shouting for vengeance, attacked Uighur neighbourhoods, and many Uighur residents said people died. The government has not released any numbers.

Authorities have posted notices in Urumqi urging rioters to turn themselves in or face stern punishment.

Xinjiang has long been a tightly controlled hotbed of ethnic tensions, fostered by an economic gap between many Uighurs and Han Chinese, government controls on religion and culture and an influx of Han migrants who now are the majority in most key cities, including Urumqi.

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Apple turns up heat in Nokia battle

Apple turns up heat in Nokia battle

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Nokia said it would defend itself vigorously against Apple’s new complaint to the United States International Trade Commission.

The two phone giants are in the midst of a major legal battle, which started last October when Nokia charged Apple for using its patented technologies without paying for them.

Apple filed the new ITC complaint on Friday.

“Nokia will study the complaint when it is received and continue to defend itself vigorously,” said a company spokesman.

“However, this does not alter the fact that Apple has failed to agree appropriate terms for using Nokia technology and has been seeking a free ride on Nokia’s innovation since it shipped the first iPhone in 2007,” he said.

In late December Nokia also filed a claim with the ITC, alleging Apple infringed seven of its patents in “virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers” sold.

“The fact that two such prominent companies have now filed complaints will likely mean the ITC will seek to deal with this as a matter of urgency,” said Ben Wood, head of research at British consultancy CCS Insight.

“That said, a lengthy legal battle is almost inevitable irrespective of a decision from the trade commission,” he said.

The ITC can ban selling products in the United States — a market crucial for Apple, but Nokia makes only a fraction of its sales there.

Analysts say it could take years to solve the legal battle.

“This dispute is still in its infancy. I don’t think Nokia is finished with evaluating the infringements by Apple, it might be just the surface,” said Steven Nathasingh, chief executive of U.S. research firm Vaxa Inc.

Nokia, along with Ericsson and Qualcomm, holds many key patents for making mobile phones.

Nokia has stumbled badly in the fast-growing smartphone sector and relative newcomer Apple has gained ground against the market leader thanks to the iPhone, but still trails Nokia in smartphones sales.

The legal dispute, potentially involving hundreds of millions of dollars in annual royalties, reflects the shifting balance of power in the mobile industry as cellphones morph into handheld computers that can play video games and surf the Web.

Apple, which entered the industry in mid-2007, overtook Nokia in the September quarter as the cellphone maker generating the highest total operating profit.

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