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Digest

Friday, July 23, 2010; A08

VIETNAM

Clinton: U.S. is ready for 'next level' in ties

The Obama administration is ready to move to the "next level" of close relations with Vietnam despite concerns and "profound differences" over human rights, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a visit to Hanoi on Thursday.

The administration sees Vietnam "as not only important on its own merits, but as part of a strategy aimed at enhancing American engagement in the Asia Pacific, and in particular Southeast Asia," Clinton said after a meeting with Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem.

On the last stop of a week-long trip that also took her to Pakistan, Afghanistan and South Korea, Clinton is in Vietnam to attend a regional security conference and to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations under then-President Bill Clinton 25 years after the end of the Vietnam War.

"For me personally and for my husband . . . this anniversary is especially poignant," she said at a lunch given by the local American Chamber of Commerce. The two visited Vietnam, along with their daughter, Chelsea, in late 2000 on the last foreign trip of his presidency.

"Frankly, we weren't sure exactly what to expect," Clinton said, adding that the warm reception they received had a "profound impact."

During her meeting with Khiem, he gave her a white tablecloth for Chelsea, who is getting married July 31. He also presented Clinton with a gem-studded portrait of her and her daughter, laughing and wearing conical Vietnamese hats, copied from a photograph taken during the 2000 visit.

-- Karen DeYoung

YEMEN

Violence kills 24 in south and north

Gunmen killed at least five Yemeni soldiers Thursday in a suspected al-Qaeda ambush of a military convoy in the southern province of Shabwa, the third assault on state targets in five weeks blamed on the group's resurgent regional arm.

Yemen leapt to the forefront of Western security concerns after al-Qaeda's Yemen-based regional wing asserted responsibility for a failed attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December.

Violence also flared Thursday in northern Yemen, where a battle pitting Shiite rebels against pro-government tribesmen and security forces killed 19 people.

The fighting was the bloodiest in the north since a February truce.

-- Reuters

VENEZUELA

Chávez severs ties with Colombia

President Hugo Chávez severed Venezuela's diplomatic relations with Colombia on Thursday over claims he has given refuge to leftist Colombian guerrillas, and he warned that his neighbor's leader could try to provoke a war.

Chávez acted moments after Colombian Ambassador Luis Alfonso Hoyos presented a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington with photos, videos, witness testimony and maps of what he said were rebel camps inside Venezuela.

-- Associated Press

MEXICO

Gang clashes bring border city to a halt

Late-night gun battles between gangs that forced citizens from their cars and used the vehicles to block streets paralyzed the border city of Nuevo Laredo, with the sound of gunfire alarming people on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande.

Nuevo Laredo city officials said they could not immediately confirm witness reports that several gunmen were killed. A police spokesman in Laredo, Tex., said that several residents called emergency dispatchers but that there was no spillover violence.

"They're not Vikings. They're not going to invade us," the spokesman said.

-- Associated Press

Honda strike in China ends with wage increase: Striking workers at a factory in China that supplies Honda Motor Co. went back to work after agreeing to a 47 percent pay raise, an employee said. The strike at the Atsumitec factory in Foshan, in the southern province of Guangdong, was part of a wave of wage protests that have idled dozens of Chinese and foreign-owned factories recently.

S. Africa's Tutu to retire from public life: One of South Africa's most beloved figures, Desmond Tutu, announced plans to retire from public life after his 79th birthday in October. The Nobel peace laureate honored for his efforts to fight apartheid said he wants to spend more time with his family. South Africans lavished praise on Tutu and said his retirement was well deserved, but many said they could not imagine the country without his moral leadership.

-- From news services

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