Saturday, February 16, 2008

State Dept. Drops Ban on HIV-Positive Diplomats

Under pressure from a lawsuit, the State Department yesterday changed rules that had disqualified HIV-positive people from becoming U.S. diplomats.

The department removed HIV from a list of medical conditions that automatically prevent Foreign Service candidates from meeting an employment requirement that they be able to work anywhere in the world.

The change was made after consultation with medical experts and in response to a lawsuit filed by an HIV-positive man who was denied entry into the Foreign Service despite being otherwise qualified, the department said.

Prospective diplomats with HIV will now be considered for the Foreign Service on a case-by-case basis, along with those with other designated ailments, such as cancer, to determine whether they meet the "worldwide availability" standard.

The change in policy came less than two weeks before the trial in the lawsuit brought in 2003 by Lorenzo Taylor, a trilingual international affairs specialist who passed the difficult Foreign Service application process but was rejected after he told the department of his HIV status.

U.S., Iranian Officials Discuss Terrorism Funds

A U.S. official met last month with Iranian banking officials and senior government aides who oppose punishing the Islamic nation for not doing enough to stop money laundering and terrorism funding, the Treasury Department said.

The talks in Paris took place despite the Bush administration's near-absolute ban on formal U.S.-Iran contact. They also occurred against the backdrop of Tehran's attempts to avert the imposition of new United Nations sanctions over its suspect nuclear program.

The meeting was part of the Bush administration's attempts to ramp up international pressure on Iran to halt atomic activities that could lead to the development of nuclear weapons. The administration also wants Iran to stop its support for groups the United States has designated as terrorist organizations, the senior U.S. official said.

Iran was represented by senior officials from its central bank, known as Bank Markazi, and its government, according to a Middle Eastern diplomat familiar with the session. Officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential closed-door discussions.

Talks on Southeast Water Rights to Continue

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said that the governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia would continue water-sharing negotiations for "at least a week" after they missed a deadline for settling their long-standing dispute.

The regional water dispute has lasted for nearly 20 years and centers on how much water the Army Corps of Engineers holds back in federal reservoirs near the head of two river basins in north Georgia that flow into Florida and Alabama.

-- From News Services

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