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U.S. pledges better rules at Afghan prisons

By wire services
Published June 15, 2004

KABUL, Afghanistan - The U.S. military promised Monday to improve its prisons in Afghanistan after a top general inspected the network of 20 secretive jails, where allegations of abuse include the deaths of at least three detainees.

The military refused to say how procedures will be changed at the jails - amid accounts from former prisoners of hoodings, beatings and sexual abuse. But a spokesman promised "comprehensive" information on the general's findings would be made public within weeks.

Nader Nadery, a spokesman for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, urged commanders to release the findings to convince Afghans - shocked by graphic pictures from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq - that abuse in Afghanistan was not widespread.

Afghan chief hopes for more NATO troops

WASHINGTON - President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan said Monday that he hopes NATO will send more peacekeeping troops before September when his country is scheduled to hold its first free election.

"To fulfill the promise that we have been made, we are hoping that NATO will come to Afghanistan before the elections of September," he said at a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

NATO already is running the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, the Afghan capital, as well as a reconstruction operation in the northern city of Kunduz. The alliance has pledged to expand its security operations to cities elsewhere in the war-torn country this summer.

Karzai was scheduled to meet with President Bush today.

Israeli airstrike kills 2 Palestinian fighters

JERUSALEM - An Israeli airstrike in the West Bank late Monday killed two Palestinian fighters, including a local leader.

An Israeli helicopter fired a missile at a car in the Balata refugee camp next to the city of Nablus, killing Khalil Marshoud, the local leader of al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a violent offshoot of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. The military said Marshoud was behind a number of attacks against Israelis.

Another fighter was killed and a third person was seriously wounded, witnesses said.

U.N. nuclear agency head criticizes Iran

Frustrated with Iran's "changing and at times contradictory" stories about its nuclear program, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, demanded Monday that Tehran provide a full accounting "within the next few months."

Diplomats are meeting in Vienna this week to review Iran's compliance with the U.N. watchdog agency. Iran is likely to be sharply criticized in a resolution that the United States and other members of the agency's board are scheduled to vote on this week.

The White House said it shares ElBaradei's "serious concerns," and urged Iran to "come clean and abide by its international agreements."

U.N. blocked from fact-finding in Congo

KINSHASA, Congo - Mined roads and armed factions blocked U.N. officials Monday from pursuing reports of new clashes in eastern Congo, a U.N. spokesman said, as government authorities investigated a failed attempt to oust President Joseph Kabila.

Local correspondents for U.N.-funded radio in Congo reported skirmishes Monday between pro-government Mayi Mayi militia fighters and renegade ex-rebels 25 miles north of the important eastern city of Bukavu, near the Congo border with Rwanda.

U.N. spokesman Sebastien Lapierre, in Bukavu, told the Associated Press that members of the U.N's 10,800-strong peacekeeping force couldn't confirm the latest clashes in Africa's third-largest nation, saying mines and armed groups were blocking U.N. officials from reaching the area.

House backs more aid for children, AIDS orphans

WASHINGTON - The House on Monday directed the government to increase its help for orphans and vulnerable children in developing countries and moved to set up a new office concentrating on children who lose their parents to AIDS.

Under legislation passed by voice vote, the office in the U.S. Agency for International Development would coordinate efforts to provide basic care and HIV/AIDS treatment to orphans and vulnerable children in developing countries.

It would also oversee school food and education programs and work to eliminate school fees and protect the inheritance rights for orphans.

The legislation still requires Senate action.

[Last modified June 15, 2004, 01:00:24]

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