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Envoys from Britain, Canada being expelled

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) -- A top adviser to President Laurent Gbagbo said Thursday that the British and Canadian ambassadors have been asked to leave the country in retaliation for the expelling of Ivorian ambassadors in London and Ottawa.

Pascal Affi N'Guessan, president of Gbagbo's political party and one of his closest advisers, said the two envoys will be forced to leave in the same manner as their Ivorian counterparts, who he says were humiliated by the recall.

For over a month since the November runoff election, Gbagbo has refused to leave office, even though results compiled by the country's electoral body and certified by the United Nations showed that he had lost by a nearly 9-point margin to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara.

Ouattara has sent letters to more than 20 countries asking them to no longer recognize the Ivorian ambassadors there. Last week, the British Foreign Office informed Gbagbo's ambassador in London that they were no longer recognizing him. N'Guessan says Canada followed suit.


Unpopular price hikes for fuel to be reversed

ISLAMABAD (AP) -- The Pakistani government said Thursday that it will reverse unpopular increases in fuel prices that helped spark the breakup of the governing coalition, an apparent attempt to prevent the government from collapsing.

It is unclear whether the government's decision on fuel prices, which were increased by as much as 9 percent on New Year's Eve, will lure back the second-largest member of the ruling coalition, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

The Qaumi Movement said anger over the price hikes spurred its defection to the opposition, depriving the ruling People's Party of a majority coalition in parliament.

The decision to back down on the fuel price hikes could cause problems with the International Monetary Fund, which has demanded that Pakistan reduce its deficit if it wants to continue receiving billions of dollars in loans that have helped keep its faltering economy afloat. The price decrease means that Pakistan will have to provide a fuel subsidy, increasing its deficit.


Al-Sadr urges restraint by raucous supporters

NAJAF, Iraq (AP) -- Hundreds of raucous supporters celebrated the return of firebrand Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Thursday after his emergence from four years of exile in Iran, leading him to urge them to show more restraint.

The Shiite populist returned Wednesday as head of a movement that is a key partner in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new Shiite-dominated government.

In his first public statement since his return, al-Sadr said that while he welcomed the reception he got, "the lack of discipline displayed by some of you, while I was performing my religious rituals and public matters, has bothered and harmed me. I demand you to exercise discipline."

He was referring to the reception by hundreds of followers a day earlier, while he visited a shrine. Crowds chanted, "Muqtada is our only leader."