JPSPAN problem with non-ascii characters

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I'm running into troubles when I return non-ascii characters from a
JPSPAN-enabled server to a javascript client, e.g. if I publish the
following PHP class through JPSPAN:

class Hello {
    function hello() {
        return 'Iñtërnâtiônàlizætiøn€';

If I call the hello function from javascript on the client side and
show the result with alert() I get a garbled string where all non-ascii
characters do not show up.
I assume this is a PHP side character set issue. is mbstring the way to
go ? Have you encoutered this problem ?  
Thanks for your time

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