Afghan President Hamid Karzai has confirmed the U.S. and Afghan governments have been holding three-way talks with the Taliban. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Karzai said he believes most Taliban members want to find a peaceful settlement to the 10-year war in Afghanistan. Karzai made the comments ahead of a trip to Pakistan today for meetings with the Pakistani government and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The U.S.-led NATO occupation force in Afghanistan has resumed sending prisoners to Afghan jails after a five-month freeze. The transfers were halted last year after a U.N. report uncovered human rights violations at Afghan prisons.
At least six people have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan’s North Waziristan province, near the Afghan border. Pakistani officials said the attack targeted a compound housing militants in an area also hit by U.S. missiles last week.
Iran is claiming significant new advances in its nuclear program, citing new uranium enrichment centrifuges and domestically made reactor fuel. According to state media reports, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has inserted the first Iranian-manufactured fuel rod into a Tehran reactor. The United States has downplayed the announcement, calling it “not big news.” As it made the announcement, Iran also said it had delivered a letter to the European Union calling for new talks on its nuclear activities.
Syrian troops have attacked the border city of Daraa, where the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 11 months ago. Residents have reported hearing explosions and machine gun fire. While the shelling of Homs also continues, troops have now launched a new offensive in the city of Hama, reportedly killing 14 people in a nearby town. The attacks come a day after Assad offered to hold a referendum and elections.
In news from Libya, Amnesty International is warning armed militias are committing widespread human rights abuses without punishment. In a new report, Amnesty says the Libyan government has turned a blind eye to the militias, which mostly target those believed to be loyalists of the slain leader Muammar Gaddafi. The report’s co-author, Amnesty’s Carsten Jürgensen, called for the militias to be reined in.
Carsten Jürgensen: “The problem is that these militias are de facto above the law. They are not being held accountable for what they are doing, and the authorities not dare to do so. We are calling on the authorities to make first sure that those detention centers, which are existing throughout the country and where people continue to be tortured and abused, that these detention centers are closed. And then they have to send a clear message to these militias by starting to prosecute those perpetrators of crimes, particularly in cases where people have died.”
A new report has found that malnutrition is a “hidden crisis” that kills five children around the world every minute. The group, Save the Children, says nearly half-a-billion children worldwide are at risk of permanent damage over the next 15 years from chronic malnutrition. The group also reports that malnutrition affects one-in-four children globally.
The United Nations is urging a dramatic escalation of aid for the drought-stricken Sahel region of West Africa. Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the World Food Programme, said millions of people are at risk.
Josette Sheeran: “This is a devastating drought. It’s throwing more than 10 million people into grave food and nutrition insecurity. Today one million children face urgent malnutrition, which can have devastating long-term consequences.”
President Obama visited a factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Tuesday to tout his economic agenda and an “insourcing” plan for keeping U.S. jobs from going abroad.
President Obama: “The last thing we can afford to do is go back to the same policies that got us into this mess. Milwaukee, we are not going back to an economy that’s weakened by outsourcing and bad debt and phony financial profits. We need an economy that is built to last, that is built on American manufacturing and American know-how and American-made energy and skills for American workers, and the renewal of American values of hard work and fair play and shared responsibility. That’s what we’re about.”
Obama’s visit coincided with the one-year anniversary of the start of Wisconsin’s statewide uprising against Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public workers. But during his remarks, Obama made no mention of the struggle in Wisconsin. Walker himself pulled out of Obama’s appearance, citing a bout with the flu.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick has confirmed he will step down when his five-year term expires in June. President Obama will be tasked with naming a successor, with rumored candidates including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former top economic adviser, Lawrence Summers.