Hillary calls for ‘open China’ ahead of talks

US secretary of state Hllary Rodham Clinton said on Sunday that China needs to adopt a domestic “level playing field” for Chinese and foreign companies, adding that she would be pushing the Chinese for a “more balanced economic relationship” with the US in upcoming economic and strategic talks in Beijing. Those talks, to be cochaired by Ms Clinton and US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, are likely to be dominated by efforts to win China’s support to punish North Korea for the sinking of a South Korean warship. But the US officials will be focused on economic issues as well.

“For trade to work in any economy and for it to produce the benefits we know it can, there must be a level playing field where domestic and international companies can compete freely and openly,” she told workers at a Boeing maintenance facility at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport. Ms Clinton said the US would press for greater regulatory transparency, non-discrimination, fair access to markets and enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Mr Geithner and Ms Clinton are leading a delegation of nearly 200 officials to Beijing as part of an effort to help President Obama deliver on his pledge to double US exports within five years and create two million jobs. One issue likely to come up is the trade advantage Beijing has because of an undervalued Chinese currency. China has kept the Yuan at a rate of 6.83 per dollar for nearly two years, seeking to cushion its exporters from the global financial crisis.

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US cleric urges Muslims to kill American troops

A US-born militant cleric has urged Muslims to kill US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and vowed to step up attacks against the US military, according to a video-tape released on Sunday. Anwar al-Awlaki, wanted dead or alive by US authorities, is a leading figure linked to al Qaeda’s Yemen-based wing. He is believd to be on the run in the impoverished Gulf Arab state. “Muslims should object to what’s going on either verbally or by physical action,” Awlaki said in the 45-minute interview posted on an Islamist website. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the recording.

Awlaki praised the actions of US Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan who shot dead 13 people at Fort Hood, a Texas Army base, in November. “Nidal was my student…I am proud of Nidal Hasan and this was a heroic act,”he said, adding: “Who can object to what he did? He killed soldiers on their way to Iraq and Afghanistan.” Hasan had sent emails to the cleric but they were intercepted by US intelligence agencies and examined by US joint terrorism task forces. “If the situation remains we will see new Nidal Hasans appearing,” Awlaki said in the tape. “These American soldiers on their way to Afghanistan and Iraq, we kill them.”

Asked by an interviewer if killing US soldiers would have a  negative impact of Muslims in the US, Awlaki said defending Muslims ion Iraq and Afghanistan was a larger priority. “Is protecting the reputation of Muslims in America more important than bombs dropping on millions of Muslims elsewhere?” US officials said in April that President Barack Obama’s administration had authorized operations to capture or kill Awlaki. Yemen has said it will not hand over Awlaki, whose family is well-known in Yemen, but instead put him on trial if he is arrested. Born in New Mexico, Awlaki led prayers at US mosques. He returned to Yemen in 2004 where he taught at a university before he was arrested and imprisoned in 2006 for suspected links to Al Qaeda and involvement in attacks. He was released in late 2007.

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