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U.S. promises to work to get Afghanistan aid

By Wire services
Published September 19, 2003

KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow promised on Thursday $1.2-billion in new American aid to Afghanistan and said he would urge foreign allies to donate at least $1-billion more in reconstruction money during a financial conference this weekend in Dubai.

Although diplomats and officials in Afghanistan spoke glowingly of the economic possibilities for a revitalized Afghanistan and praised new laws that lay the foundation for a banking system here, nearly half the American pledge is designated for security spending on the police, highway and border patrols and the military.

The United States has spent $1.8-billion on reconstruction in Afghanistan since it ousted the country's Taliban leadership in military strikes in late 2001.

Report: Thousands of children fight in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia - Thousands of children fight for Colombia's illegal armed groups, and some are forced to watch prisoners being tortured, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday.

The New York advocacy group warned the widespread recruitment of child fighters is undermining the fabric of Colombian society. "These children will bear the scars of their experience for decades to come," said the report.

Jose Miguel Vivanco, head of the group's Americas Division, said about 11,000 children are under arms, 80 percent of them as combatants with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and a smaller rebel outfit, the National Liberation Army.

COLOMBIA SIGNS PACT WITH U.S.: Under strong pressure from the Bush administration, Colombia's government has signed an agreement that exempts Americans arrested in the country for human rights violations from prosecution before the International Criminal Court. The agreement, signed late Wednesday, means $130-million in U.S. aid to Colombia will proceed.

Elsewhere . . .

SYRIA GETS NEW CABINET: Naji al-Otari, Syria's new prime minister, formed a 31-member Cabinet on Thursday, touted as a new effort to carry out economic and bureaucratic reforms, the state news agency reported.

The government includes 14 ministers who served under his predecessor, Mohammed Mustafa Miro, who resigned Sept. 10. It is dominated by members of the Baath party, which has ruled Syria for more than 30 years, and includes two women.

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