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Daily Archives: May 3, 2008

Rice to discuss risk of Kosovo partition with European colleagues

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday she intended to discuss the risk of Kosovo's fragmentation with her European counterparts at a meeting where Russia has not been invited.
"We want to make certain that there are no efforts to partition Kosovo," the top US diplomat told reporters while en route to London, where she will also attend talks on Iran's nuclear programme and the Middle East peace process.
"Kosovo is now an independent country recognised by all the countries that will be coming to this meeting."
Kosovo unilaterally announced its independence from Serbia on February 17 and since then, around 40 countries have recognised its declaration, but Belgrade and Moscow have rejected it.
The meeting which Rice will attend will also feature foreign ministers from Britain, France, Germany and Italy, along with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.
The five countries are members of the so-called Kosovo Contact Group, which also includes Russia, whose diplomatic chief Sergei Lavrov was set to be in London yesterday for talks on the Middle East peace process.
Lavrov was not, however, invited to discussions between Rice and her European colleagues, according to a senior official in the US State Department, who declined to be identified.
"There are good arguments for maintaining the contact group," the official said.
"It still exists. But given the differences between the five countries and Russia, it is useful to coordinate strategy."
Rice said that the United States continues "to have discussions with the Russians."
"We will continue to try to make sure that despite the differences we have on Kosovo, that those differences do not fuel in any way further conflict there."

Thousands marching across US for immigration reform

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by Paula Bustamante*

Thousands of immigrants and rights groups marched peacefully across the United States on Thursday, renewing calls for reform to help bring 12 million illegal workers out of the shadows.
More than 10,000 people marched in Los Angeles late Thursday for one of the biggest demonstrations, one year after a similar protest erupted in violent clashes between police and protesters.
Immigrant rights activists say the protests — which were taking place in more than a dozen other cities including New York, Washington, Chicago and Miami — will draw attention to the issue of immigration reform.
Activists are campaigning for an overhaul of federal immigration laws that will provide illegal workers with a path to citizenship and an end to raids of businesses aimed at cracking down on immigrants.
About 10,000 people of Hispanic and Asian origin gathered in downtown New York's Union Square before a march to the federal immigration office.
In Los Angeles, police said around 10,000 people had gathered, sharply down on the vast crowd of around one million that turned out at 2006 protests.
Jose Gutierrez, leader of the Latino Movement USA, one of the organizing groups, said the protests would give voice to the millions of undocumented workers across the country.
"It is imperative to raise the voice of the more than 12 million undocumented people who work in this country," Gutierrez said. "Every day families are being separated because of the raids."
Another activist, William Torres of the March 25th Coalition, said undocumented workers deserved the right to stay in the country legally.
"Is it fair that we only exploit them for their cheap labor and deny them citizenship when they love this country?" Torres said as crowds carrying American flags and placards began gathering in downtown Los Angeles.
Among the Los Angeles demonstrators was 15-year-old student Jorge Prieto, who had skipped classes to attend the rally. Prieto said he was demonstrating on behalf of his parents, both illegal immigrants from Mexico.
"I want my parents to be legalized in this country," Prieto said. "I see that all the immigrants are here to make the country a better place."
Protesters in Los Angeles have also won support from the city's chamber of commerce, with the body's vice president Samuel Garrison saying recent immigration raids were hurting the local economy.
"The raids are frightening workers. They are worrying employers," Garrison told the Los Angeles Times. "I think it's going to cause a lot of businesses to think twice about coming to Los Angeles."
Los Angeles police are determined to avoid a repeat of the violent scenes that erupted at last year's protests in the city, where police were accused of heavyhanded tactics against marchers and media.
A coalition of rights groups were holding rallies in Los Angeles from 4pm (2300 GMT).
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama meanwhile said the most effective way for protesters to make their voices heard was by registering to vote in this year's presidential election.
"Today, I encourage the thousands of people who are marching and calling for change to work hard registering voters in the months to come. Your vote is your voice," Obama said in a statement.
Obama's rival Hillary Clinton reiterated her pledge to introduce immigration reform in the first 100 days of her presidency, if elected.
"As President, I am committed to working with Congress to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill within my first 100 days in office," Clinton said.