Hillary seeks more European help in Afghanistan
ASTANA: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on a European security organization Wednesday to play a bigger role in helping stabilize Afghanistan and to do more to strengthen the voice of human rights groups worldwide.
In the aftermath of the leak of huge numbers of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables by the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website, Clinton also urged a greater commitment to press freedom, but she made no overt reference to the embarrassing episode.
"It is not enough for a constitution to guarantee freedom of the press if, in reality, journalists are put under intense pressure and even assaulted," she told the opening session of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's first summit meeting in 11 years.
She made no explicit mention of WikiLeaks, nor did it come up in other officials' speeches on the first day of the summit.
On the sidelines of the summit, Clinton and her Belarussian counterpart, Sergei Martynov, announced that the former Soviet republic of Belarus will give up its stockpile of material used to make nuclear weapons by 2012.
That's a significant step forward in efforts aimed at keeping nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, and follows similar commitments made by other former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan. Washington will provide technical and financial help to enable Belarus to dispose of its highly enriched uranium stocks.
On Afghanistan, Clinton said the OSCE can play an important role to improve border security, counter illicit trafficking, boost legitimate trade, promote economic development and help develop national institutions.
She urged a recommitment to what she called "comprehensive security" - not just protection against armed attack but also protection of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The summit is being held over two days in Astana, the gleaming new Kazakh capital rising from the sparsely populated northern steppes.
The OSCE was born in the 1970s to nurture rapprochement between Cold War enemies. But the organization has in recent years struggled to define a clear purpose - an anxiety reflected in the speeches of many leaders at the Astana summit.
In the opening address, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lamented shortcomings among the group's members in enforcing the rule of law and protecting the rights of minorities. -Ap
ASTANA: French Prime Minister Francois Fillon (L) talks with British deputy Prime Minister Nicholas Clegg (R) during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the OSCE Summit. -Ap