This is IN THE NEWS in VOA
United States is proposing a big conference on Afghanistan and wants to invite Iran,
one of its neighbors. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says dealing with
extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan requires a regional effort.
She announced the proposal to
hold a high-level meeting on March thirty-first. It would also include donors
and members of NATO, and might take place in the Netherlands. The United
Nations special representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, could be the chairman.
Secretary Clinton presented the
idea to NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. Then, on Friday, she met in Geneva with
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss arms control and other issues.
The NATO ministers agreed to restart
high-level contacts with Russia. Those were suspended last year after its military
action in Georgia.
President Obama wants Russia to
help keep nuclear weapons away from Iran. He says that would reduce the need
for an American missile-defense system proposed for the Czech Republic and
Poland. But he also says his comments do not suggest a weakening of support for
the security of those countries or other NATO members.
Russia opposes the defense plan.
President Obama says it is directed at Iran, not Russia. But his administration
is also re-examining current American policy which aims to isolate Iran from
the world. At the same time, he has decided to send two high-level officials to
Damascus for talks with Syria.
Clinton announced the trip in Jerusalem earlier this week during her first visit
to the Middle East as America's top diplomat. The United States has not had an ambassador
in Syria since former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri was killed in two
The United States has criticized Syria
and Iran for supporting militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. But, in a
development announced Wednesday, Britain says it is open to talks with the
political wing of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Britain halted contacts in two
thousand five. And last July it added Hezbollah's military force to its list of
banned organizations. But Hezbollah is part of a national unity government that
was formed last year in Lebanon. The United States says it has no plans for now
to follow Britain's lead.
Finally, in other news, this Sunday is
International Women's Day. A new study says women's rights have gained some ground
in Arab Gulf states since a similar study completed five years ago. The group Freedom
House notes that in Kuwait, women have won the right to vote. In Oman, women
have made gains in areas of higher education, the work force and politics.
Just last month, Saudi Arabia got
its first woman cabinet member, Noura al-Fayez, the deputy minister for women's
education. But the Freedom House researchers say much more progress is still
needed, especially in Saudi Arabia.
that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve