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Palestinian, Indonesian and Afghan Leaders Visit President Bush

I’m Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

The leaders of Afghanistan, Indonesia and the Palestinian Authority met with President Bush in Washington this week.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai visited the White House on Monday. He and Mister Bush signed a cooperation agreement that promises continued American support for Afghanistan.

But Mister Karzai failed to gain a promise of greater control over United States military operations in his country. Under current policy, American military officials must only inform Afghan officials about planned operations.

Mister Karzai also asked for control over Afghan citizens suspected of terrorism. He called reports of mistreatment of Afghans held by the American military “displeasing.” But Mister Bush questioned the ability of the Afghan government to house and guard the prisoners.

Also in the United States, Mister Karzai defended his record in fighting the illegal drug trade in his country. He says he hopes Afghanistan will be free of opium poppies in five or six years.

On Wednesday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met with President Bush. They discussed economic ties and military cooperation. Later, the United States said it plans to give Indonesia about four hundred million dollars in tsunami aid. That is almost half what the United States has promised to countries struck by the huge earthquake and waves in the Indian Ocean in December. The waves tore across large parts of the Indonesian province of Aceh.

The two presidents also agreed to continue to work to renew normal military relations. In nineteen ninety-nine, Congress ended military aid to Indonesia over human rights concerns. But Indonesia is now involved again in a program that lets Indonesian soldiers study and train in the United States.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Mister Bush on Thursday. The Bush administration offered the Palestinian Authority fifty million dollars in direct aid. The money is to help rebuild housing, roads and bridges. President Bush had never invited the former Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, to the White House.

In recent weeks, Afghanistan, Indonesia and the Middle East have all had protests over a report that appeared in Newsweek magazine. It said Americans had mistreated Korans at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Newsweek later apologized and withdrew the report.

On Thursday, the Defense Department announced findings from a continuing investigation. Defense officials said investigators had found five incidents of "mishandling" of the Islamic holy book. They said some appeared accidental.

The officials did not give details of the five cases. But they said there was no proof for the Newsweek report that a Koran had been flushed down a toilet.

On Friday more protests took place in a number of Muslim countries.

IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English, was written by Jerilyn Watson. I’m Steve Ember.