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Clinton courts Indonesia

Thu., Feb. 19, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today relentlessly hammered home the Obama administration’s message that America is under new management and ready to listen and engage the world.

On the second leg of a weeklong tour of Asia, Clinton took to the airwaves, appearing on the most popular youth show in the world’s most populous Muslim nation to deliver her message and bring greetings from President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood here.

“There is so much excitement in the air here,” she told an enthusiastic studio audience on the MTV-style “Dahsyat” show, which translates in English to “Awesome.” She said she had just spoken with Obama who wished them all well, drawing cheers.

Much of her appearance was lighthearted banter, but she also made clear that Washington wants to address Muslim concerns about U.S. policy in the Middle East and elsewhere. She later met with Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Algiers, Algeria

Al-Qaida claims to have hostages

Al-Qaida’s North Africa branch claimed Wednesday it is holding hostage a senior U.N. peace envoy, his aide and four tourists kidnapped in the Sahara Desert in recent weeks.

United Nations special envoy for Niger, Robert Fowler, and his aide Louis Guay, both Canadian diplomats, were kidnapped Dec. 14 in the southern Sahara country. Four tourists, including two Swiss, a German woman and a British man, were kidnapped by gunmen Jan. 22.

“We announce to the general public that the mujahideen (holy warriors) reserve the right to deal with the six kidnapped according to Islamic Shariah law,” the al-Qaida group said in a statement posted Wednesday on militant Web sites.

From wire reports

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