Xinhua Asia-Pacific news summary at 1000 GMT, Jan. 6

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TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday encouraged a deescalation of tensions in the Middle East, calling on all parties involved to step up diplomatic efforts.

Expressing his "deep concern" over a recent spike in tensions after the United States conducted an airstrike on Baghdad killing a top Iranian general last week, with Iran vowing retributions, Abe said parties involved should "exhaust diplomatic efforts" to ease tensions. (Japan-Middle East-Tensions)

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WELLINGTON -- New Zealand firefighters are still battling a forest fire in the north of Napier in New Zealand's North Island.

The fire has spread about 140 hectares of forest.

The large fire broke out on Monday fueled by "cutover from remnants of forestry work" and spread fast through strong winds, said a local government spokesperson, adding the fire was still spreading. (New Zealand-Forest Fire)

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ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had telephone conversations with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey on Sunday, discussing the emerging situation in the Middle East after a U.S. airstrike killed an Iranian commander, according to the country's Foreign Ministry.

Highlighting Pakistan's "deep concern" over the recent developments, Qureshi underscored the imperative of avoidance of conflict, exercise of maximum restraint, and de-escalation of tensions, the ministry said in a statement. (Pakistan-Middle East-Situation)

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HONG KONG -- A private survey on Monday showed Hong Kong's private sector was still in a severe downturn despite the latest benchmark index signaled slower deterioration of economic activities in December.

The headline Purchasing Manager's Index (PMI) rose from 38.5 in November to 42.1 in December, the slowest deterioration in the health of the private sector since July, IHS Markit said in a report. (Hong Kong-Economy)

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NEW DELHI -- India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar held phone conversations with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as well as foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman, respectively, on Sunday night, over the evolving situation in the Gulf amidst escalated tensions between Washington and Tehran.

"Had a telephonic discussion with Secretary of State @SecPompeo on the evolving situation in the Gulf region. Highlighted India's stakes and concerns," Jaishankar said in Twitter Sunday night. (India-Middle East Tensions)

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NEW DELHI -- University and college students staged protests and demonstrations across many cities in India, including Mumbai, Delhi and Aligarh, throughout Sunday night, against the violence that erupted inside the Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) injuring around 30 students.

Students belonging to various colleges, institutes and universities were seen continuing with their protests at Mumbai's popular monument Gateway of India till Monday morning. (India-Protests) Enditem

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