(photo credit: Associated Press)
ASTANA, Kazakhstan — US 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.
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In the aftermath of the leak of huge numbers of sensitive US 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 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 re-commitment to what she called "comprehensive security" — not just protection against armed attack but also protection of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The OSCE was born in the 1970s to nurture rapprochement between Cold War enemies. It is the only regional security organization in which the United States and Russia are both members.
Holding its two-day summit in Astana, the gleaming new Kazakh capital
rising from the sparsely populated northern steppes, was a coup for
President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Nazarbayev is eager to portray Kazakhstan as progressive and
sophisticated, though critics say the country suppresses opposition,
violates human rights and disregards Western standards of democracy.
"At the end of Kazakhstan's year at the helm of the leading world human
rights organization, many observers are left looking at the significant
work Astana still has to accomplish at home," US Sen. Benjamin Cardin,
vice president of the OSCE's parliamentary assembly, said.
WikiLeaks' release of diplomatic cables may not help the country's image.
One note allegedly written by a US diplomat in Astana details scenes of
hard-drinking hedonism by several senior Kazakh ministers. The same
report describes Nazarbayev as horse-obsessed and given to taking refuge
from the often-frigid capital at a holiday home in the United Arab
Kazakhstan insists it is a force for stability and prosperity in the
region and that it has actively engaged with civil society to dispel the
misgivings of those that would dismiss the country as unresponsive and