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News Wrap: Obama Addresses Afghanistan Corruption

March 29, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In other news Monday, President Obama returned from a surprise trip to Afghanistan where he met with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul to discuss anti-corruption efforts and Iraq's prime minister continued to push for a recount after he trailed in the recent elections.

KWAME HOLMAN: President Obama returned to Washington today from a surprise trip to Afghanistan, his first as commander in chief. Air Force One touched down at Andrews Air Force Base this morning after the six-hour stay in Afghanistan. On Sunday, Mr. Obama met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, and pressed for greater efforts against corruption.

In Washington today, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said again that’s a critical part of the new American strategy.

P.J. CROWLEY, assistant secretary of state for public affairs: He had the opportunity to meet with President Karzai and discuss the importance of good governance, combating corruption, appointing effective officials, and — and delivering for the Afghan people.

And that — that is a process that is ongoing in places like Marjah, looking ahead in places like Kandahar.

KWAME HOLMAN: In Kabul, Afghan officials offered a different take on the Obama visit. A spokesman for the defense ministry said the president’s main message was the U.S. commitment.

GEN. MOHAMMAD ZAHIR AZIMI, Afghan Defense Ministry Spokesman (through translator): President Obama clearly said they are going to support Afghanistan. And he clearly said at Bagram that they are committed to a victory in Afghanistan. None of the U.S. presidents have provided as clear a message as President Obama did this time.

KWAME HOLMAN: Later, the Associated Press reported NATO forces will launch an offensive against the city of Kandahar in June. The city is the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban.

In Iraq, there were more complaints over the election results. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki criticized the U.N. for not backing his demand for a recount. Maliki’s bloc finished in second place behind his chief rival, Ayad Allawi. Neither group has enough seats for an outright majority in the Iraqi parliament.

The Mexican army has arrested a suspect in the killing of three people linked to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez. Authorities said today the suspect is the leader of a gang working for the Juarez drug cartel. Two weeks ago, an American Consulate employee and her husband were ambushed in their car after leaving a party. A man married to a Mexican employee of the consulate was killed after leaving the same party.

North Korea may have used an underwater mine to sink a South Korean warship last Friday. That word came from the South Korean defense minister today. He said the mine could have been left over from the Korean War, or it could have been placed there more recently. Meanwhile, South Korea’s military chief says divers heard no sign of life from the sunken wreck, where 46 sailors are trapped.

REAR ADMIRAL LEE KI-SIK, joint chiefs of staff, South Korea (through translator): What our military considers is the most important thing is not salvaging the sunken ship, but to search for the missing crews. So, we will be focusing on putting all our abilities in searching for the crew. We will salvage the ship after we find all of the missing crew.

KWAME HOLMAN: Fifty-eight crew members from the ship were rescued within hours of the sinking.

A large-scale search also is under way in northern China today — 153 workers were trapped Sunday when a coal mine flooded 400 miles southwest of Beijing. Today, about 1,000 rescue workers used large pipes to pump water out of the mine shafts, but they failed to make contact with the trapped miners.

In U.S. economic news, the U.S. Treasury announced it will sell its stake in Citigroup this year for a potential profit of $7.5 billion. And the Commerce Department reported consumer spending rose three-tenths-of-a-percent last month, despite blizzards in the East.

The news helped Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average gave — gained 45 points to close near 10896. The Nasdaq rose nine points to close at 2404.

Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the “NewsHour”‘s Web site — for now, back to Judy.