VOA NEWS IN STANDARD ENGLISH

February 5, 2013


A new promise for peace in Afghanistan. Spain's ruling party faces a confidence crisis. I'm Ray Kouguell reporting from Washington.



Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari are pledging to reach a peace settlement for Afghanistan within six months. The two presidents made their promise in a joint statement issued by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

"Our discussions today focused on two important issues--the Afghan-led peace process and strengthened cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. And we made progress on both these issues. We all fully support an Afghan-led peace process and the opening of an office in Doha for negotiations between the Taliban and the High Peace Council."

Prime Minister Cameron met with the Afghan and Pakistani leaders near London--the third meeting in a series of summits that started last July in Kabul.



A Pakistani schoolgirl who survived a Taliban assassination attempt last year appeared speaking on camera for the first time since doctors in Britain saved her to life.

Malala Yousufzai appeared in a brief video published online Monday.

"Today you can see that I'm alive. I can speak, I can see you, I can see everyone, and today I can, I can speak and I'm getting better day by day."

She also promised to continue working toward, in her words, "the right of every girl, every child to be educated" and appeals viewers to donate to her cause.

She became internationally known for speaking out against militants and their stance against educating women.

Pakistan Taliban gunmen last October shot the 15-year-old student in the head and neck while she was returning home from school in the country's northwestern Swat Valley.



Two senior Islamist militants have been captured in northern Mali, including a top leader of radical group Ansar Dine.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says the French warplanes meanwhile were continuing bombing raids on supply routes and training centers in the remote desert of northeastern Mali.



Iraqi authorities say a suicide bomber targeting government-backed forces killed alt least 19 people and wounded 40 others.

The attack occurred as soldiers and militiamen were collecting their salaries at an office in the town of Taji, north of Baghdad.



South Korea and the United States have launched a joint navel exercise off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula to test the combat readiness of the two allies.

The three-day drill that began Monday comes at a time North Korea is ramping up daily threats of a nuclear test in response to expanded UN sanctions imposed after its long-rage rocket launch in December.



President Obama says there is public support for greater gun control and the country has an obligation to act.

Mr Obama brought his message for gun control to the Midwest city of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

"We may not be able to prevent every massacre or random shooting. No law or a set of laws can keep our children completely safe. But if there's even one thing we can do, if there's just one life we can save, we've got an obligation to try."

Mr Obama called for background checks for anyone buying a gun and for banning military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines.



US Secretary of State John Kerry started work as the nation's top diplomat promising to make priority the safety and security of diplomatic personnel around the globe.

Secretary Kerry paid tribute to personnel killed in line of duty, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans who died in a terrorist attack in a diplomatic compound in an annex building in Benghazi, Libya, in September.



New figures show unemployment in Spain rose to an all-time high last month. There are close to 5 million Spaniards out of work--eight percent more than at the same last year.

The bad numbers come as Spain's prime minister faces calls to step down amid accusations of corruption. Caroline Arbour has more.

Spain's embattled ruling party is in full defense mode, following accusations that the Partido Popular, or PP, kept secret ledgers hiding donations that were funneled to top officials.

The party's deputy secretary, González Pons, told Spanish public television Monday the handwritten ledgers published by the newspaper El País last week are not credible.

The documents obtained by El País, covering the years 1990 to 2009, seem to indicate that prior to becoming prime minister, Mariano Rajoy received $34,000 annually, after a party meeting to discuss the corruption crisis. But Rajoy denied having benefited from kickbacks."

Caroline Arbour for VOA news, Seville.