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briefs

- The Washington Times - Monday, July 19, 2010

PAKISTAN

Clinton tries allaying Pakistani skepticism

ISLAMABAD | Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought Monday to convince skeptical Pakistanis that American interest in their country extends beyond the fight against Islamist militants by announcing a raft of new aid projects worth $500 million.

The projects, which include hospitals and new dams for sorely needed electricity, are part of a $7.5 billion aid effort to win over Pakistanis suspicious about Washington's goals here and in neighboring Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are being killed in ever greater numbers by an insurgency with roots in Pakistan.

Mistrust over U.S. intentions in Pakistan is in part due to Washington's decision to turn away from the nuclear-armed country after enlisting its support to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

SOUTH KOREA

U.S. carrier to arrive ahead of exercise

SEOUL | A U.S. aircraft carrier and three destroyers will visit South Korea this week ahead of a naval exercise to deter North Korea following the sinking of one of Seoul's warships, officials said Monday.

The USS George Washington, based in Yokosuka, Japan, will arrive Wednesday at the southern port city of Busan for a five-day port call, the U.S. military said.

Three destroyers from the carrier's strike group, including the USS McCampbell, will also visit South Korean ports on the same day.

"Our presence here is a testament to the strength of our alliance and our constant readiness to defend [South Korea]," said the carrier's commanding officer, Capt. David Lausman.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived in Seoul on Monday for talks, and Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the port call was timed to coincide with the visit.

SYRIA

Full Islamic veils banned at universities

DAMASCUS | Syria has forbidden the country's students and teachers from wearing the niqab - the full Islamic veil that reveals only a woman's eyes - taking aim at a garment many see as political.

The ban shows a rare point of agreement between Syria's secular, authoritarian government and the democracies of Europe: Both view the niqab as a potentially destabilizing threat.

The ban affects public and private universities and aims to protect Syria's secular identity. Hundreds of primary school teachers who were wearing the niqab at government-run schools were transferred last month to administrative jobs.

The ban, issued Sunday by the Education Ministry, does not affect the hijab, or head scarf, which is far more common in Syria than the niqab's billowing black robes.

Syria is the latest in a string of nations from Europe to the Middle East to weigh in on the veil, perhaps the most visible symbol of conservative Islam.

Veils have spread in other secular-leaning Arab countries, such as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, with Jordan's government trying to discourage them by playing up reports of robbers who wear veils as masks.

Turkey bans Muslim head scarves in universities, with many saying attempts to allow them in schools amount to an attack on modern Turkey's secular laws.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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