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Sudan elections set stage for independence of south

DUK PAYUEL, Southern Sudan — Gabriel Manyok, 27, often marveled at the television images of Americans lining up to vote. He wondered whether he would ever participate in the great exercise of democracy. He was particularly inspired when Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the United States.

Analysis: Obama refocuses his diplomacy

BOSTON — Real diplomacy doesn’t happen to the sound of applause. It is a quiet, complex, back-channel enterprise and one that requires a personal relationship between individual heads of state. In recent weeks, it seems President Barack Obama has come to understand this and has shown a change in the White House’s game plan when it comes to international affairs.

Diplomats for hire

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Brussels has one of the biggest concentrations of diplomats on the planet. Many nations keep three embassies here dealing with the European Union and NATO as well as the Kingdom of Belgium.  Among the historic palaces, modernist landmarks or bland office blocks hosting national delegations around the EU headquarters, is a one-room office that serves as a de facto legation for nations that don’t officially exist.                  

Obama backs up pledge to reduce nuclear arms

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — During a speech at Prague Castle last year, U.S. President Barack Obama announced an audacious idea to eventually rid the world of nuclear weapons. It was a goal, he said, not likely to be achieved in his lifetime. A treaty signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev in Prague on Thursday, almost a year to the day, would trim the two power’s strategic nuclear arsenals to their lowest levels in half a century.

Opinion: High stakes for the trio of tension — US, India, Pakistan

NEW DELHI, India — Imagine a high-stakes, billion-dollar poker game that just doesn’t end. The players keep upping the ante and the power balance continually shifts. A scene out of fantasy poker you say, but in real life an appropriate analogy for the new great game being played out between the United States, India and Pakistan.

Opinion: Divisive issues may sink Kenya's constitution

WASHINGTON — After a divisive and controversial presidential election in 2007 that led to post-election violence and a unity government lead by rivals Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga, Kenyans will go to the polls again on Aug. 4 to cast yet another controversial and potentially divisive vote. This time, Kenyans will be voting on a new constitution, not for or against a specific politician. But without a doubt, the referendum votes cast for or against the new constitution will be based equally on politics and substance.

Opinion: US can give better aid to Haiti

WASHINGTON — Last week at a United Nations conference, donors pledged more than $10 billion to finance reconstruction and development investments in Haiti. The United States promised a hefty $1.15 billion. But pledging money is the easy part. The United States, the lead donor and friend with the greatest interest in Haiti’s future development, can do much more, in two ways: its own aid programs can be more effective; and it can take steps beyond aid that are far more critical to long-run prosperity for Haiti’s people.

Interview: Death penalty decreasing worldwide

BOSTON — Amnesty International released its annual survey on the use of the death penalty. The report found 18 countries executed people in 2009. China is estimated to have executed the most people, but refused to release an official figure. In the 17 other countries 714 people were executed.

Strait of confusion: China-Taiwan trade

TAIPEI, Taiwan —  It may sound like an infectious disease. But for Taiwan's government, ECFA is the tonic the island's economy desperately needs. ECFA is a proposed trade deal — or economic cooperation framework agreement — between China and Taiwan. First mooted last year, it was in the news again in recent days as more talks were held at a swank resort south of Taipei. Taiwan hopes to ink the deal by June. Too bad most Taiwanese can't figure out what it's all about.

Opinion: Earnest appeal to President Obama on behalf of Burma

NEW YORK — Twenty years on, my escape from Burma is still vivid in my mind. In June 1988, six military intelligence agents knocked on my door in Rangoon in the middle of the night. They had come to arrest me for speaking out against the regime during the student uprising that came to be known as the “8888 Uprising.” With my father’s help, I managed to evade arrest that night. A determined monk hid me among the novices at a nearby Buddhist temple. In the morning, I fled to a small remote town in Upper Burma.
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