ASIA:

CHINA-POLITICS

BEIJING — China's government responds to public demands for bold leadership with vows to press long-sought market reforms, defend against terrorism after a horrific slashing attack, and heavily boost military spending amid rising tensions with Japan. The promises delivered by Premier Li Keqiang in his first annual policy speech also include cutting official waste, combatting persistent smog and pushing ahead with President Xi Jinping's signature campaign to fight the rampant graft that has undermined public faith in the ruling Communist Party. By Gillian Wong. SENT: 920 words, photos.

INDIA-ELECTIONS

NEW DELHI — India says it will hold national elections from April 7 to May 12, kicking off a vote that many observers see as the most important election in more than 30 years in the world's largest democracy. The run-up to the election has laid bare widespread disgust in India over corruption and disenchantment with the storied Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, which has dominated Indian politics since independence from Britain in 1947. By Nirmala George. SENT: 880 words, photos.

CHINA-BUS FIRE

BEIJING — A fire on a crowded passenger bus in northeastern China kills at least 10 people and injures 17 in the country's second deadly bus fire in less than a week. SENT: 150 words.

CHINA-TRAIN STATION ATTACK

BEIJING — A Chinese official says the eight suspects in a knife attack that killed 29 people at a train station over the weekend waged the assault after they were unable to leave the country to join a "holy war," state media report. SENT: 260 words.

NEW ZEALAND-DEEP FISH

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — They may look like guts stuffed in cellophane, but five fish hauled up from near-record depths off the coast of New Zealand are providing scientists with new insights into how deep fish can survive. In a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists from the U.S., Britain and New Zealand describe catching translucent hadal snailfish at a depth of 7 kilometers (4.3 miles). By Nick Perry. SENT: 500 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-NKOREA

CANBERRA, Australia — An Australian missionary detained in North Korea for trying to spread Christianity says he was interrogated for four hours a day. SENT: 120 words.

PAKISTAN

PARACHINAR, Pakistan — A roadside bomb targeting Pakistani troops kills six soldiers and injures eight others in the country's northwest near the Afghan border, a local official says. By Hussain Afzal. SENT: 330 words.

JAPAN-IRAN

TOKYO — Iran's foreign minister pushes back against calls for deeper cuts to its nuclear program. Mohammad Javad Zarif says the West "cannot entertain illusions" of Iran completely ending its uranium enrichment program. Speaking in Tokyo, he also reiterates that his country is not going to give up finishing its heavy-water nuclear reactor. SENT: 310 words, photos.

INDONESIA-EXPLOSION

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An explosion at an Indonesian navy ammunition warehouse kills one man and injures more than 80 other navy personnel, the military says. The blast at the navy's amphibious special forces unit north of Jakarta happened while navy personnel were trying to extinguish a fire caused by a short circuit, it says. SENT: 170 words.

PHILIPPINES-VICE MAYOR

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine government forces search for a town's vice mayor after her family reported that she had been abducted outside a shopping mall in the country's restive south, where a series of kidnappings has set off a security alarm. SENT: 250 words.

PHILIPPINES-CONVICTED INDONESIAN

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine immigration officials deport an Indonesian who served a decade in prison after being convicted of possessing explosives. SENT: 200 words.

UNITED STATES-ASIA TENSIONS

WASHINGTON — The United States appeals to its closest Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, to improve their strained relations, saying there's an urgent need to show restraint on "difficult historical issues." By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 450 words.

UNITED STATES-ASIA PIVOT

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration rushes to restate its commitment to a stronger presence in Asia after a senior defense official reportedly says that budget cuts mean the so-called "pivot" can't happen. By Matthew Pennington. SENT: 280 words.

AP APPOINTMENT-ANTHONY

NEW YORK — Ted Anthony, an award-winning journalist who has reported from 20 countries and pioneered innovative cross-platform story-telling at The Associated Press, is named Asia-Pacific news director for the news cooperative. He will oversee more than 100 AP journalists in text, photos and video for a region stretching from India to Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. SENT: 500 words, photo.

BUSINESS AND FINANCE:

CHINA-ECONOMY

BEIJING — China's government pledges to promote sustainable growth by opening state-dominated industries to private investment and making banks more market-oriented while keeping this year's economic expansion at a relatively robust 7.5 percent. In his first annual policy speech as China's top economic official, Premier Li Keqiang says Beijing will promote consumer spending, ease exchange rate controls and improve access to credit for productive businesses. By Joe McDonald. SENT: 900 words, photos.

AUSTRALIA-QANTAS

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia's government rejects a request from Qantas Airways for a $2.7 billion unsecured loan to help the national carrier return to profitability, deciding instead to abolish foreign ownership restrictions, the prime minister says. SENT: 440 words.

U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL:

UKRAINE-DIPLOMACY

PARIS — Top diplomats from the West and Russia trying to find an end to the crisis in Ukraine gather in Paris as tensions simmer over the Russian military takeover of the strategic Crimean Peninsula. Meanwhile, NATO prepares to take up the issue directly with Russia in an extraordinary meeting of the military alliance originally created as a counter to the Soviet Union. By Lori Hinnant. SENT: 540 words, photos. UPCOMING: Updates through the day.

OBAMA-UKRAINE SCENARIO

WASHINGTON — Russia is likely to keep its military in Ukraine's Crimea peninsula indefinitely, analysts and former Obama administration officials say, forcing the United States and Europe into a more limited strategy of trying to prevent President Vladimir Putin from making advances elsewhere in the former Soviet republic. By White House Correspondent Julie Pace. SENT: 820 words, photos.

OBAMA-BUDGET

WASHINGTON — Republicans are dismissing President Barack Obama's new $3.9 trillion budget as nothing more than a Democratic manifesto for this fall's congressional campaigns, but the fiscal plan is taking hits from another quarter too — anti-deficit groups. By Alan Fram. SENT: 690 words, photos.

VENEZUELA-CHAVEZ

CARACAS, Venezuela — Hugo Chavez always claimed his socialist project would last decades, but a year after the Venezuelan president's death even some of his most fervent supporters have their doubts amid food shortages, high inflation and weeks of protests. By Fabiola Sanchez and Frank Bajak. SENT: 750 words, photos.

TEXAS ELECTION

AUSTIN, Texas — The first primary in what Republicans hope is a triumphant election year sends a message that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and the tea party still wield considerable influence in one of the nation's most conservative states. But to find out exactly how much, Texans will have to wait. While some incumbents successfully beat back tea party challengers, others backed by the outspoken freshman senator are moving on to runoffs. By Paul J. Weber. SENT: 700 words, photos, audio.

PISTORIUS-TRIAL

PRETORIA, South Africa — The chief defense lawyer in Oscar Pistorius' murder trial seeks to undermine the prosecution testimony of a couple who say they heard screams and gunfire the night the athlete fatally shot his girlfriend, saying similarities in their accounts indicated that they had aligned their versions at the expense of the truth. By Gerald Imray and Christopher Torchia. SENT: 830 words, photos. UPCOMING: Updates through the day, photos, video.

QATAR-GULF AMBASSADORS

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recall their ambassadors from Qatar in an unprecedented move likely meant to underscore their displeasure over Doha's support for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood group in Egypt and elsewhere in the region. By Aya Batrawy. SENT: 670 words, photos.

LEBANON-HOUSE OF CARDS

BEIRUT — Lebanese politicians are looking for tens of millions of dollars in aid at a Paris conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and world diplomats to help cope with a flood of refugees from the neighboring Syria's civil war. But while authorities plead for cash, Lebanon's house is hardly in order. There is little sign of reform for the collapsing economy in a country where the dysfunctional democracy been marred by nepotism, corruption and warlord-style governance ever since the 15-year civil war ended in 1990. By Barbara Surk. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

ARMY GENERAL-SEX CHARGES

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The closely watched sex assault trial for an Army general is finally set, but it will unfold with lingering questions about the accuser's credibility and without the prosecutor who led the case for nearly two years. By Michael Biesecker. SENT: 540 words, photos.

NETANYAHU-CALIFORNIA

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning a swing through the Silicon Valley to meet with high tech leaders and sign a pro-business agreement with Gov. Jerry Brown. By Martha Mendoza. SENT: 400 words, photo.

ART-HUMAN HAMSTERS

NEW YORK — Ever feel like you're on a big hamster wheel and you can't get off? Ward Shelley and Alex Schweder know that feeling all too well. The two performance artists are spending 10 days living, eating and sleeping on a giant hamster wheel to make a larger point: We all have to work together to get through the daily grind. By Ula Ilnytzky. SENT: 380 words, photos.

GETTING ATTENTION

— MARDI GRAS-NEW ORLEANS — Fat Tuesday excesses give way to more circumspect Lenten season in New Orleans. SENT: 370 words, video, photos.

— OSCARS-TRAVOLTA APOLOGIZES — John Travolta apologizes to Idina Menzel for flubbing her name during Oscars telecast. SENT: 250 words, photos.

— SUPREME COURT-SECURITIES FRAUD — Supreme Court considers making it tougher to bring securities class-action lawsuits. SENT: 460 words.

— IRAN-MISSILES — Iran says its Guard has acquired multiple warhead missiles. SENT: 400 words.

— VATICAN-POPE — Pope says he finds mythology surrounding him 'offensive.' SENT: 470 words, photo.

— OBIT-NULAND — 'How We Die' author Nuland dies of prostate cancer in Conn. at 83; had 'beautiful life.' SENT: 500 words, photos.

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YOUR QUERIES: The editor in charge at the AP Asia-Pacific Desk in Bangkok is David Thurber. Questions and story requests are welcome. The news desk can be reached at (66) 2632-6911 or by email at asia@ap.org.

The Asia Photo Desk can be reached at (81-3) 6215-8941 or by fax at (81-3) 3574-8850.

Between 1600 GMT and 0000 GMT, please refer queries to the North America Desk in New York at (1) 212-621-1650.