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U.S. Diplomat Plays down Leaked Call; Germany’s Merkel Angry

Washington - A top U.S. diplomat tried to play down the damage to Washington's diplomacy in Ukraine from a leaked telephone call on Friday, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel called an obscene remark about the EU "absolutely unacceptable." U.S. officials blamed Moscow for the Internet leak of recordings of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the U.S. ambassador in Kiev discussing a possible fu ...

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New Militant Group Claims Cairo Bombings

Cairo - A new militant group has claimed responsibility for two bombings that targeted the Egyptian police on Friday and has vowed to carry out more attacks, according to a statement posted on a Facebook page set up in its name. The group called AjnadMisr, or Soldiers of Egypt, emerged last month, claiming responsibility for six attacks at the end of January, according to SITE Intelligence group, which moni ...

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China Ready to Train Afghan Personnel: Xi

KABUL - China has affirmed its support for Afghanistan's integration into regional economic cooperation, saying the war-torn country’s fate is closely linked with that of the region. Chinese President Xi Jinping, at a meeting with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai in Russia on Friday, said Beijing wanted to further expand relations with Kabul. The two leaders were in the Russian resort city of Sochi to at ...

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Kubiš Rules Out Flawless Polls on April 5

KABUL - Calling for an acceptable election process in Afghanistan, the top UN diplomat in the country on Saturday ruled out a flawless presidential vote, scheduled for April 5. But the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative JánKubiš told a news conference in Kabul that the Afghans should not be pessimistic about the presidential provincial elections. “We want more efforts to be made for holding fair ...

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Afghan Civilian Deaths up in 2013 as War Intensify: U.N.

KABUL - War took an increasing toll on Afghanistan's civilians in 2013 as fighting intensified between the government and insurgents, the United Nations said in a report on Saturday, with total casualties rising 14 percent. The gradual withdrawal of foreign troops has left Afghan government forces more vulnerable to attack by insurgents, and the resulting battles helped account for last year's rise in casua ...

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Planning for Post-2014 Mission Continues: Hagel

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration continues to plan a post-2014 mission in Afghanistan, despite an impasse over the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Friday. President Hamid Karzai has refused so far to sign the pact, in the absence of which US has said it will not keep its troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, when the current International Security Assistance Fo ...

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The Role of Women in the Upcoming Elections

Ahead of another election in Afghanistan, the role of the women in taking part for shaping the future of the country is once again highlighted. Civil organizations and activists campaigning for women’s rights have organized a ‘national conference of women’ with the aim to review to role and participation of women in the upcoming elections. Afghanistan once again needs active participation of the women in th ...

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Syria Misses Deadline to Hand over All Critical Chemicals

Damascus - Syria on Wednesday missed a deadline to hand over all the toxic materials it declared to the world's chemical weapons watchdog, putting the program several weeks behind schedule and jeopardizing a final June 30 deadline. Under a deal reached in October between Russia and the United States, which helped avert a U.S.-led missile strike against the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, Syria agreed t ...

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Syrian Refugees, Fleeing Barrel Bombs, Stuck at Turkish Border

Ankara - Turkey is turning away Syrian families without passports after a refugee influx caused by intensified "barrel bombing" in Aleppo filled up its refugee camps, the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) said on Wednesday. One of the Syrian opposition's most vocal allies, Turkey has taken in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. But resources have been stretched at the Turkish border after P ...

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CIA Cuts Drone Strikes amid Pakistan Peace Moves

KABUL - The CIA has slowed down its drone campaign in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region near the Afghanistan border, as Islamabad woos the Taliban to the negotiating table, a media report said on Wednesday.“That’s what they asked for, and we didn’t tell them no,” the Washington Post quoted an unnamed US official as saying. However, the strikes against senior Al-Qaeda targets will continue. According to ...

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State Dept. Endorses Afghan Peace Process

WASHINGTON - Contrary to the public perception, the United States on Tuesday endorsed peace talks between the Karzai government and the Taliban, saying it had always supported Afghans talking to Afghans to bring peace and stability to their country. “We have long strongly supported an Afghan-led reconciliation, which would of course be Afghans talking to Afghans. So the notion that we wouldn't support that ...

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Presidential Runners Back BSA, Taliban Talks

KABUL - In a lively overnight debate, five of the 11 presidential runners supported signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States and outlined their vision for a future political structure. Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, Dr. Zalmai Rassoul, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Dr. Ashraf Ghani and Abdul Qayyum Karzai offered their views on a wide range of topics, including the BSA, the economy, corru ...

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Obama Consults Defence Team on Afghanistan

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Tuesday discussed Afghanistan with his top defence leadership, including the ISAF commander, the White House said, hailing the meeting as useful and constructive. However, no decision was made on the number of US troops in Afghanistan post 2014 at the meeting, during which Obama discussed the ground realities and various options that were recently presented to him b ...

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The Irrelevant NATO Status of Forces’ Agreement

President Hamid Karzai intends to pursue talks on an agreement with the NATO paving the way for the alliance to plan a post-2014 presence in Afghanistan. According to the reports, Karzai has decided at a meeting of the Afghan National Security Council that the agreement with NATO should be quickly finalized, the government said. Karzai’s call on NATO to speed up the negotiations on ‘Status of Forces’ comes ...

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Celebrity Tax Dodging Prompts Calls for Crackdown in Germany

Berlin - Revelations that prominent Germans have for years hoarded cash in secret bank accounts have prompted calls from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners for a clampdown on tax dodging. Germany's front pages have been dominated by in recent days by public confessions from feminist activist Alice Schwarzer and Berlin city's Culture Minister Andre Schmitz about tax evasion. ...

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China Warns Officials Not to Cover up Corruption

Beijing - Authorities in China have warned they will go after officials who cover up corruption, state media reported on Tuesday, in the government's latest effort to curb widespread graft. The ruling Communist Party has shown no sign of wanting to set up an independent body to fight graft, however, and has arrested at least 20 activists who have pushed for officials to reveal their wealth, convicting two a ...

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Thai PM under Fire as Rice Scheme Sinks, Poll Challenged

Bangkok - Pressure on Thailand's embattled government mounted on Tuesday, when a flagship rice-buying scheme vital to its support stumbled closer to collapse and the opposition filed legal challenges that could void a disrupted weekend election. The crisis in the rice scheme is a humiliating blow for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra - it helped sweep her to power in 2011, but has become mired in allegatio ...

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England and Wales Urge Scotland: Don’t Leave us

London - Despite sporting and historic rivalry, England and Wales had one message for Scotland on Tuesday: don't leave us. As debate over Scotland's independence referendum heats up, an opinion poll showed a rising number of English and Welsh want Scotland to stay in the 307-year group forged by the Treaty of the Union that created the United Kingdom of Great Britain. A YouGov poll found 54 percent want vot ...

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German Foreign Minister Threatens Sanctions against Ukraine

Berlin - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said sanctions should be used as a threat against Ukraine's government unless it finds a political solution to its long-running, at times violent, dispute with the opposition. The comments from the Social Democrat minister strike a different tone from the line taken so far by conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said last week there was no q ...

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Russia Says Syria to Ship More Chemical Arms, Attend Talks

Moscow- Russia offered assurances on Tuesday that the Syrian government will show up at a new round of peace talks next week and will soon ship more toxic agents abroad for destruction under a deal to eliminate its chemical weapons arsenal. The statements appeared intended to ease Western concerns about President Bashar al-Assad's commitment to a peace process that started last month, and to abandoning his ...

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