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Thai PM Lifts State of Emergency, Looks to End Political Crisis

Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has lifted a state of emergency and voiced his hope for reconciliation following violent street protests against his government.

Mr. Abhisit told a special session of parliament Friday that the state of emergency was lifted to show the world that Thailand has returned to normal.

He says the move was also made to find a solution to the Thailand's ongoing political crisis and move the country forward.

Still, Mr. Abhisit says troops will remain deployed in the streets as anti-government protesters say they plan to hold a peaceful rally in Bangkok on Saturday.

A Thai court on Friday released three of the so called "red shirt" protest leaders on about $14,000 bail.

Thailand declared a state of emergency on April 12 as rioting and protests began to escalate. At their peak, violent clashes in Bangkok killed two people and injured more than 100 others.

Thailand held its special parliamentary session this week to try to find ways to heal the bitter political divide between Mr. Abhisit and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The country's persistent political turmoil began around the time when Mr. Thaksin was removed from office by a bloodless military coup in 2006 over allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

The red shirts claim Mr. Abhisit, who was appointed by parliament in December, came to power illegitimately after court rulings removed two Thaksin allied governments from power. They want Mr. Abhisit to step down and hold fresh elections.

Mr. Thaksin's whereabouts continue to dominate headlines in Thailand, where the government is trying to extradite him on corruption charges. The former prime minister was in Liberia this week to explore investment opportunities in the West African country's mining sector.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.