Kurdish rebel leader calls for cease-fire, say Turkey’s parliament must draft new constitution

ANKARA, Turkey – The jailed Kurdish rebel leader on Monday urged fighters to extend a cease-fire by several months to allow a new Turkish constitution to address their demands, but his followers refused to immediately rule out further attacks.

Abdullah Ocalan’s word carries enormous weight with rebel commanders in the field. But the group said in a statement it was coming under attack from Turkish forces and authorities were still arresting Kurdish activists.

“Taking into consideration these developments and the ambiguous nature of the current political climate, our movement has decided to discuss and evaluate the appeal of our leader in a comprehensive manner and declare our stance during the following week,” the statement from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, said.

The rebel group, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and the West, is fighting for autonomy in Turkey in a conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984. A Turkish campaign to grant more rights to Kurds stalled amid a nationalist backlash, but the government has promised to address the issue as part of an overhaul of the constitution.

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In a message relayed to his group through his lawyers, Ocalan urged the new parliament to immediately start working on a new constitution, the rebels said. He called on PKK fighters to avoid clashes and only defend themselves if attacked.

Ocalan had previously threatened to end the cease-fire on June 15, and warned of increased violence by his rebel group unless Turkey’s government agreed to negotiate an end to the conflict.

Ocalan no longer runs rebel operations since his capture in 1999, but he retains considerable sway over the guerrillas, who are mostly in hiding in bases in northern Iraq.

The rebels also said Ocalan had met with a group of state officials on June 14, two days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party won a third term in office.

Last year, state officials travelled to Ocalan’s prison island a few times to talk with him, his lawyers said. Turkey says it does not negotiate with the outlawed group, but has acknowledged that intelligence agents have talked to Ocalan for years.

The Kurdish minority makes up about 20 per cent of Turkey’s 74 million people, and has traditionally been a target of state discrimination.

UN refugee chief calls for open borders during war, more burden-sharing from wealthy nations

ROME – The U.N. refugee chief on Monday urged all countries to keep their borders open and offer protection to refugees fleeing violence since “new crises multiply and old crises never end.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres spoke after some European nations including Italy have shown resistance to opening their doors to people feeling unrest and violence across North Africa and the Middle East.

Guterres spoke of an “impression” seeded across Europe that all refugees were coming to the continent. But, he said, “it’s simply not true that refugees are moving massively to the north.”

A report released Monday by UNHCR said four-fifths of the world’s 15.4 million refugees are hosted by developing countries.

In Libya, for example, about 1 million people – not all of them refugees – have fled to neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt since the beginning of the violence, Guterres told reporters in Rome. Less than 2 per cent of that number have crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

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“My appeal to all states of the world is to keep the borders open to all those who seek protection and are entitled to receive protection,” he said. He also called for a “new deal in burden- and responsibility-sharing” in the handling of refugees, saying wealthy countries should offer more support to countries in the developing world, since they are bearing the brunt of refugee crises.

Guterres was marking World Refugee Day and the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, aimed at protecting civilians and prisoners in time of war. On Sunday he went to Lampedusa, the tiny Italian island where some 20,000 people arrived after fleeing unrest in Tunisia and Libya. Angelina Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the refugee agency, also toured the island.

Guterres called on the Italian government not to send people back to Libya.

The conservative government of Premier Silvio Berlusconi signed an agreement last week with Libyan rebels meant to stem the influx of migrants. The government includes a xenophobic party, the Northern League, as a junior partner, and the interior minister handling the crisis, Roberto Maroni, is a prominent League official.

The deal, among other things, allows for the deportation of immigrants without proper status, prompting concerns that it might prevent refugees from being properly screened for asylum claims.

“I don’t believe that we can consider that the present Libyan situation is conducive to any kind of return into Libya,” Guterres said Monday. “Imagine what would happen if the Tunisians and Egyptians would have returned the 1 million people.”

He said the best way to handle the situation is to grant access to the territory to migrant boats, and then assess whether or not the people on board are entitled to protection.

However, Guterres said he was impressed by sea rescue operations that have been carried out by Coast Guard officials off Lampedusa in the past months.

Later in the day, Guterres met with Maroni, the Italian interior minister, who has been in charge of handling the migration crisis. A statement from the ministry sought to play down any controversies, focusing on co-operation, the UNHCR’s call for burden-sharing and its commitment to support the democratic transition of “Arab spring” nations.

According to the report released Monday, more than a quarter of the world’s refugees are in just three nations: Pakistan, Iran and Syria.

Those figures don’t include the latest wave of people displaced by this year’s unrest in North Africa. Guterres said Monday that “at the end of 2010 we had the highest number of refugees and internally displaced people of the last 15 years.”

Palestinians make up one-third of the world’s refugee population – a total of almost 5 million people – many of whom have lived in neighbouring countries all their lives.

Aside from the 15.4 million refugees – a small increase of 153,000 since 2009 – UNHCR also counted 27.5 million internally displaced people and 850,000 asylum seekers last year.


Associated Press Writer Frank Jordans contributed from Geneva.

American lawyer, professor celebrate Nepal’s first public lesbian wedding ceremony

DAKSHINKALI, Nepal – A lawyer and a college professor from the United States celebrated Nepal’s first public lesbian wedding ceremony Monday in the Himalayan nation that recently began recognizing gay rights and drafting laws to end sexual discrimination.

Courtney Mitchell, 41, and Sarah Welton, 48, from Denver, Colorado, celebrated in a Hindu Nepalese tradition at the Dakshinkali temple south of Kathmandu, the capital of the Himalayan nation. Local gay rights activists and supporters cheered the ceremony attended by their close friends.

Nepal Parliament member Sunilbabu Pant, a gay rights activist, said it was the first public wedding of a lesbian couple in the mostly conservative nation.

Same-sex marriages are not legal in Nepal, where gay couples hid their relationships until recently, when the supreme court ordered the government to legally guarantee sexual rights and end discrimination. The laws are being drafted, but broader political differences have delayed passage.

Pant said while Monday’s wedding did not hold any legal status, “it was a huge achievement for gay rights campaign in Nepal.”

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Pant and his group, called Blue Diamond Society, have been fighting for their rights and have even opened a travel agency hoping to bring in foreign gay couples to come to Nepal for weddings and honeymoon.

At the temple, 14 miles (22 kilometres) south of Kathmandu, Mitchell wore trousers, a hat and vest while Welton wore a red sari and covered her head with a veil.

A Hindu priest performed the ceremony. The couple offered flowers, fruits and money to the fire and gods at the traditional ceremony. The couple put flower garlands on each other while Mitchell put red vermillion powder on Welton’s forehead, which is equivalent of exchanging of rings in a Christian wedding.

The guests danced to tunes played by a traditional band with drums and trumpets. One musician, Sitaram Basiyar, said he has performed at hundreds of weddings in his lifetime but this was his first lesbian wedding.

“I never thought I would see such a wedding in my lifetime,” he said.

The couple said they were happy to be married in Nepal and to contribute to the campaign for gay rights in the country.

“It was my dream wedding come true. This is a fabulous ceremony,” Welton said.

Mitchell worked with the U.S. Peace Corp in Nepal between 1998 and 2003, when people did not admit homosexuality.

“It is because if everything that has been happening since 2003 with sexual minority rights we decided to come here for the wedding,” Mitchell said. “We are very excited about all the progress Nepal has made for gay rights in Nepal and I really wanted to show my support for Nepal.”

The couple who met at a birthday party five years ago have adopted a 9-month-old girl.

They plan to register their wedding in the state of Iowa, where same-sex marriage is legal, while it is not in Colorado.

Blue Diamond Society organized a ceremony last year for a Briton and Indian united in Nepal’s first wedding ceremony for a gay couple. It was a private ceremony attended by a few guests.

EU foreign ministers add 6 Libyan port authorities to assets freeze, pledge postwar help

LUXEMBOURG – European Union foreign ministers harshly condemned the regime of Libyan Col. Moammar Gadhafi on Monday, saying there could be no impunity for crimes against humanity and urging his followers to distance themselves from such crimes.

“Time is not on Gadhafi’s side,” the foreign ministers said in a statement. “He has lost all legitimacy to remain in power.”

The 27 foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, toughened the EU’s sanctions against the regime by adding six port authorities controlled by Gadhafi’s forces to its asset-freeze list. The ports were not named.

The statement said the officials were concerned about the humanitarian situation, particularly in the city of Misrata and in the western mountains, and said charity organizations must be granted unhindered access throughout Libya without delay. It reiterated the offer – made many times, but never accepted – to support the delivery of humanitarian aid with an EU military force if requested to do so by the U.N.

The statement also said the EU, working with the U.N., the World Bank and regional organizations, had started to mobilize its resources to support a political transition in Libya and will also help with post-conflict reconstruction.

“The EU is committed to supporting the building of a democratic state,” the statement said.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has expressed concern about postwar stability in Libya if planning is not done.

She has said a successful post-conflict period in North Africa will require what she calls the three M’s: money, market access and mobility. She wants Europe to contribute billions of euros (dollars) to develop the economies of Libya, Egypt and Tunisia.

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Embarrassing incidents for Airbus at Paris Air Show, where rivalry with Boeing heats up

LE BOURGET, France – One of Airbus’ star jets was grounded after clipping a wing on a taxiway structure, the latest in a string of embarrassments for the European planemaker at the aviation industry’s premier showcase.

The A380 superjumbo suffered damage to its wing tip Sunday after the slow-speed collision with a building at the Le Bourget airport, where the air show is taking place, EADS spokesman Alexander Reinhardt said Monday.

Airbus quickly found a replacement jet for demonstration flights during the air show, an A380 operated by Korean Air. But the plane maker is still facing other setbacks.

The Airbus A400M military transport plane had to cancel a demonstration flight because of what the manufacturer described as a minor gearbox problem, although the aircraft will still make a fly-over during President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to the air show on Monday, Reinhardt said.

On Saturday, Airbus announced that two of the three versions of its new widebody jet, the A350, would be delayed about two years.

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The stretched A350-1000 is being pushed back to 2017 to give engine supplier Rolls Royce time to develop a more powerful motor that will extend the jet’s range, Airbus said. The standard version of the plane, the A350-900, is still expected to arrive in the second half of 2013, Airbus said.

Airbus takes on its traditional rival Boeing Co. at the air show, where both are expected to announce a string of orders as they vie for the position of biggest planemaker in the world.

Qatar Airways announced an order for six Boeing 777 planes in a $1.7 billion deal at the start of the show Monday.

Beyond the rivalry, the search for more environmentally friendly aircraft is shaping up as a major theme of this year’s Paris Air Show, the world’s largest and oldest aviation showcase.

The aviation industry has suffered this year from skyrocketing fuel costs and bleak forecasts for the international air transport market.

The International Air Transport Association last month warned that natural disasters in Japan, unrest in the Middle East and rising fuel prices would cause airline industry profits to collapse only a year after they’d begun to recover from the global economic crisis.

More than 2,100 exhibitors from 45 countries have signed up to take part in the weeklong event showcasing both commercial and defence aircraft. Airbus expects to bag bountiful orders for a new, more fuel-efficient version of its workhorse A320 shorthaul jet, while Boeing is spotlighting its new mid-range 787 Dreamliner and 747-8 intercontinental passenger jets.

Gallois said the air show, at Le Bourget airport outside Paris, “will confirm the success of the A320neo,” a revamped version of the standard A320 reengineered to be 15 per cent more fuel efficient.

Airbus has booked more than 330 orders and commitments for the A320neo since its commercial launch last December, including from airlines IndiGo, Virgin American, Brazil’s TAM and airplane leasing company ILFC.

Airlines squeezed by higher fuel prices are rushing to order the jet, which isn’t scheduled to come into service until late 2015. Boeing hasn’t yet chosen how it will respond, but top marketing executive Randy Tinseth said last week it would decide in the coming months whether to upgrade its existing 737 model or design a whole new plane, which wouldn’t be in the air until the end of the decade.

Boeing and Honeywell are both boasting of having the first biofuel-powered trans-Atlantic flight, with Boeing flying in its 747-8 freighter from Seattle on a mix of biofuel and jet fuel, while Honeywell touts the “green jet fuel” it developed to power a Gulfstream business jet on its way from New Jersey to Le Bourget just in time for the air show kickoff.

EADS will also demonstrate the world’s first diesel-electric hybrid aircraft at the show, another leg in its strategy of cutting its fleet’s carbon dioxide emissions by 50 per cent by 2050.

Skyrocketing fuel costs are a major issue for Airbus and Boeing customers, who will see their profits plunge to $4 billion this year from $18 billion in 2010, according to the IATA forecast released earlier this month.

Major airlines have increased fares seven times since the start of the year as fuel prices rose.

The airshow will also be the battleground in the yearly showdown between Boeing and Airbus for dominance in booking new orders. Airlines in fast-growing Asian and Middle Eastern countries have been ordering hundreds of new aircraft to meet skyrocketing air traffic in those regions.

Airbus edged out Boeing at last year’s Farnborough International Airshow, racking up deals totalling $13.2 billion, while Chicago-based Boeing’s commitments came in at $12.8 billion.

Those results were both a big improvement over the results of the last Paris Air Show in 2009, when many airlines closed their checkbooks in the wake of the global financial meltdown.

Last week Boeing Co. upped its forecast for aircraft demand over the next 20 years, saying airlines will need $4 trillion worth of new planes to meet a pickup in passenger numbers, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Going into next week’s event, Airbus has taken in 176 gross orders this year, compared to Boeing’s 183 gross orders.

Boeing is the world’s No. 2 commercial jet maker after Airbus, based on 2010 deliveries. Airbus delivered 510 commercial planes last year, compared with 462 for Boeing.


Jamey Keaten at Le Bourget contributed to this report.

UN says more, better trained midwives could saves millions of women’s, infants’ lives

JOHANNESBURG – More and better trained midwives could help save millions of lives in many countries with high death rates among newborns and women giving birth, the United Nations said Monday.

“We have now realized that there is a huge potential in the hands of the midwives that was not being exploited,” Vincent Fauveau, a doctor who co-ordinated a U.N. study of 58 countries, said in a telephone interview from the coastal South African city of Durban. “They can do much more than deliver babies. They can deliver health services.”

Dozens of aid, development and educational institutions endorsed a U.N. Population Fund study that said governments, donors and others must invest in and respect midwives. The study and new recommendations for training and licensing midwives were released at an international midwives conference in Durban Monday. USAID, Save the Children and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health were among the groups endorsing the study.

In Ethiopia, only 6 per cent of births are attended by a doctor, nurse or midwife, the study said. In Niger, many women have more pregnancies than is safe. In Botswana, the AIDS virus is linked to almost 80 per cent of maternal deaths.

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Midwives should be looked to in countries that need to increase the number of births attended by trained professionals if there is a shortage of doctors and nurses, Fauveau said. Midwives, often particularly trusted among women in their communities, can also offer birth control counselling and services, he said.

Fauveau said broad improvements are needed, including increases in other health professionals, but that the role of midwives should not be neglected.

In the West African country of Liberia, midwives often have to handle 10 to 15 deliveries a day during the highest pregnancy case load from February to July, said Tobias Bowen, administrator of a government hospital.

The load “puts a lot of strains on them,” Bowen said. “They are doing a tremendous job.”

Fauveau said the U.N. health agency recommends midwives handle only one or two births a day, to ensure that women and children get the right care, and that the midwives don’t burn out.

The U.N. surveyed health officials in 58 countries identified as “suffering from a crisis in human resources for health.” Two-thirds of the surveyed countries are in Africa.

The countries surveyed accounted for 58 per cent of all the world’s births in 2009 – but 80 per cent of stillbirths around the world, 82 per cent of newborn deaths and 91 per cent of maternal deaths.

Johns Hopkins determined as many as 3.6 million maternal, fetal and newborn deaths a year could be prevented if health services in the 58 countries are upgraded by 2015 and if the women there delivered in or near a clinic or hospital and had a professional to monitor their health during pregnancy and birth and immediately after. Such conditions are the norm in the developed world.

In 2000, the U.N. set Millennium Development Goals that included reducing child mortality by two-thirds and maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015. Many poor countries are struggling to meet the targets.

“Investing in midwifery saves lives,” Monday’s U.N. study concluded.

Fauveau added other investments were needed, including building more clinics, particularly in rural Africa. War, poverty and hunger also threaten women and children.

“The revolution will not take place in a few months or a few years,” Fauveau said. “It’s a long-term strategy.”


Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia contributed to this report.


Donna Bryson can be reached on 杭州桑拿按摩论坛twitter杭州龙凤/dbrysonAP

Woman who for half-century raised flag over home on Greek-Turkish border dies at 107

THESSALONIKI, Greece – For nearly half a century, she raised a Greek flag every day at the border with Turkey – a simple act that elevated her to national status.

A funeral service was held Monday for 107-year-old Vasiliki Lambidou in the village of Marasia, located in the country’s remote northeast. She died on Sunday.

Lambidou had lived in the same house a few dozen yards (meters) from the Greek-Turkish border along the Evros river since 1962. She raised the flag over her home – the closest one to the border – every day since.

She was much loved by generations of army conscripts, for whom she cooked and did laundry while they manned a guard post near her house. Soldiers would reciprocate by giving her food and wood for her fireplace.

Numerous photographs of soldiers who served there hang on the walls of her house.

Lambidou, whose family was among hundreds of thousands who were part of a population exchange with Turkey following a war in 1921, was honoured numerous times by Greek regional and national authorities. Greek President Karolos Papoulias had visited Lambidou at her home in January.

Lambidou was buried with full military honours. The Greek flag draping her coffin was handed to her granddaughter.

Senior army staff who attended the funeral praised Lambidou’s dedication.

“She was a mother to all soldiers, to all Greeks,” said Greece’s Army Chief of Staff Frangos Frangoulis.

Area military commander, Colonel Nikolaos Manolakos, said the Greek flag would continue to be raised at Lambidou’s home in her memory.

Greece and Turkey have had historically strained relations, but ties have improved drastically over the past decade.


Australia’s attorney general condemns as unacceptable a surge in young Aboriginal prisoners

CANBERRA, Australia – Australia’s attorney general on Tuesday condemned as unacceptable the burgeoning number of young Aboriginal prisoners that a parliamentary report branded a “national crisis.”

Aboriginal children are 28 times more likely than other young Australians to be sent to a juvenile detention centre, according to the report on indigenous youth in the criminal justice system released Monday.

Attorney General Robert McClelland said the “alarming statistics” would redouble his efforts with state governments to find alternatives to jail, particularly for less serious offences such as failure to pay fines and unlicensed driving.

“The rate of incarceration of indigenous Australians is plainly unacceptable,” he said.

“There has been an increasing trend with law and order severity which I think the general community accepts, particularly in respect to violent crimes, but I think locking people up for fine defaults and driving offences in circumstances where Aborigines in remote communities … find it almost impossible to get a driver’s license is really taking that philosophy far too far,” he said.

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The report comes as the government strives to close the life expectancy gap of more than a decade between Aborigines and other Australians by addressing poor health, unemployment, low education levels, and alcohol and drug abuse among indigenous people.

While Aborigines make up an impoverished minority of only 2.5 per cent of Australia’s population of 22 million, 25 per cent of the nation’s prisoners are indigenous.

Incarceration rates are far worse for the young, with Aboriginal children accounting for 59 per cent of inmates in Australian juvenile detention centres.

“The overrepresentation of indigenous youth in the criminal justice system is a national crisis,” the report said.

In the past decade alone, the imprisonment rate for Aborigines has soared 66 per cent, the report said.

The 346-page report by a committee of seven government and opposition lawmakers specializing in indigenous issues made 40 wide-ranging recommendations that attack many underlying causes for young indigenous Australians getting in trouble with police.

Paul Henderson, chief minister of the Northern Territory, which has Australia’s highest proportion of Aborigines, said his government would crack down on alcohol abuse by banning problem drinkers from buying it beginning next month.

“The vast majority of indigenous people who find themselves in jail are there because of alcohol-fueled and alcohol-related crime,” Henderson told reporters.

“If you don’t crack down on alcohol, you don’t improve indigenous incarceration rates,” he said.

Wayne Martin, chief justice of the Western Australia Supreme Court, said the report made “depressing reading,” but was not surprising.

“The one thing you can conclude, I think, from the way the figures are getting steadily worse is that whatever the solutions are, we haven’t yet found them,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Milan stocks slump after Moody’s warning on debt, Greek bailout impasse

MILAN – The Milan stock exchange opened sharply lower Monday after ratings agency Moody’s warned it may reduce Italy’s credit rating due to poor growth prospects and high public debt.

The Milan benchmark FTSE MIB index dropped 2.4 per cent Monday morning to 19,619 points. The losses outpaced other European indices, which also opened lower after eurozone finance ministers failed to reach a final deal on getting Greece its next installment of bailout money.

Moody’s put Italy on warning over concerns about its ability to spur growth and reduce public debt, which at around 120 per cent of GDP is one of the highest in Europe. It also cited fragile market sentiment for European countries with high levels of public debt, which pushes up borrowing costs.

The warning followed a similar move by Standard and Poor’s, which cut its rating outlook for Italy’s debt from stable to negative.

Italian banks, which account for a large part of the Milan index, were some of the biggest losers when markets opened on Monday. Montepaschi was down 5 per cent, Intesa Sanpaolo 2.9 per cent and Unicredit 2.9 per cent. Oil stocks were also under pressure.

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The real test for Italy – which will be a factor in determining whether it too will be struck by public debt market jitters – will be interim budget moves that Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti is expected to lay out by the end of the month. The manoeuvr will be considered by Moody’s, which announced Friday it will evaluate whether to reduce Italy’s Aa2 rating, following a similar move by Standard and Poor’s.

The financial manoeuvr “is the crucial event,” said Marco Valli, chief eurozone economist at Unicredit.

“It has to be a credible manoeuvr, with credible cuts and credible measures against evasion. Also measures that are not put off until 2013 and 2014, but that cover the entire time frame,” Valli said.

The government’s key political ally, the Northern League, is pressuring Premier Silvio Berlusconi to lower taxes as one condition for its continued support. Berlusconi’s government has been weakened by a pair of stunning electoral defeats, that also eroded support for the Northern League.

Berlusconi needs the League’s support to complete his five-year term, ending in 2013.

Valli and other analysts said the warnings by Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s should give Tremonti leverage to say he cannot cut taxes now.

As US troops withdraw, assistance will focus on Afghan sustainability, sovereignty

KABUL – U.S. officials on Tuesday said they will shift their development priorities from quick-impact stability programs run by international agencies to infrastructure and economic growth projects that can be run by Afghans over the long term.

The description of the shift comes as President Barack Obama prepares to announce the withdrawal of thousands of troops from Afghanistan.

U.S. officials speaking at a background briefing at the Kabul embassy said hydroelectric dams, roads, gas fields, mines, and increased agricultural production will be the focus of their efforts as the end of 2014 approaches, the president’s promised deadline for the withdrawal of all combat troops.

The U.S. troop withdrawal will be coupled with a reorganization and reduction of western civilians working in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said. By the end of 2014, all provincial reconstruction teams and smaller district level mentoring teams will close and U.S. development officials will withdraw to four consulate offices and the large American embassy in Kabul.

The transition to full Afghan control will begin in earnest on July 20th in five provincial capital cities and two provinces.

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U.S. and Afghan officials will convene a two-day conference on June 29 to work out the details of the first group of transition areas. U.S. officials at the embassy briefing said that each province is developing specific plans that take account of their particular security challenges, infrastructure, demographics, and institutional strength.

According to a draft copy of The Helmand Plan, for example, development and security programs will focus in the southern province will be on improving agriculture, linking cities and markets with new roads, and a 33-megawatt hydroelectric dam in the town of Kajaki.

Other transition areas will be identified by August, U.S. officials said.

The officials described the move toward transition as a “paradigm shift” and “evolutionary.”

The U.S. has more than 400 civilians working on development projects in 80 locations in Afghanistan.

The officials said that military operations will also become more focused and less ambitious.

Afghan security forces and judicial institutions are expected to take up many aspects of the counterinsurgency fight by establishing rule of law and respect for government institutions. Those institutions will be vital, even in 2014, the officials said.

“By 2014, there will be probably at least a low-level insurgency they’re fighting in this country,” said one U.S. official. “They’re going to be fighting narcotrafficking gangs. There’s going to be violence in the country.”

Violence is still the main concern.

At least seven people died in two separate attacks Tuesday.

A suicide bomber targeted Abdul Basir Salangi, the governor of the northern province of Parwan, as his car passed Tuesday. Salangi was unharmed, according to the Interior Ministry, but two other people were killed, including a 14-year-old girl.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in a text message to the Associated Press.

And insurgents in Shindand district in the western province of Herat, killed a local police commander, three of his guards, and a civilian bystander in a drive-by shooting on Tuesday, according to Shindand district governor Abdul Nadim Bhadori. At least two insurgents shot out of the windows of a white Toyota Corolla and sped away, Bhadori said.

On Monday, two NATO service members were killed during insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan. Forty-two coalition soldiers have died so far this month. The international alliance released no other details about the deaths.

Also on Monday, insurgents in the Shegal district in the eastern province of Kunar were repelled as they attacked a government building, said district police chief Ewaz Mohammad. Thirteen insurgents were killed, the Mohammad said, and two Afghan soldiers were wounded.

In the Gizab district of southern Uruzgan province, a roadside bomb killed two Afghan policemen and wounded a third, according provincial police chief Fazal Ahmad Sherzad.

And a joint operation of Afghan national police and NATO troops in Tarim Kot district in Uruzgan killed four suspected Taliban insurgents, Sherzad said.


Associated Press writers Amir Shah in Kabul, Afghanistan and Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan contributed to this report.