NATO: Afghans to take lead in majority of country


KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan forces will soon start taking charge of security for three-quarters of the nation's 28 million people, NATO's top military commander said today.

Adm. James Stavridis also said the training of the Afghan army and police was proceeding very well, despite a rising number of attacks in which Afghan forces have turned their weapons on their U.S. and NATO partners. The Afghan army and police have already started taking the lead responsibility in large areas of the country, encompassing about half of the country's population.

On standby: The body representing nations in western Africa has suspended Mali and has put a peacekeeping force on standby in the most direct threat yet to the junta that seized control of this nation in a coup last week. Alassane Ouattara, who is the rotating chair of the Economic Community of West African States, told reporters that Mali's democracy cannot be abandoned.

Abandons plans: Bulgaria has abandoned plans to build a second 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant on the Danube River with Russian firm Atomstroyexport, a top official said today. After a government meeting, Vladislav Goranov, Bulgaria's deputy finance minister said the nuclear power plant will not be built in the Danube town of Belene but a natural gas power plant would be built there instead.

Releasing oil: France's government says it is considering releasing oil from its strategic reserves as part of a U.S.-led effort to increase supply to bring down high prices. Industry Minister Eric Besson said "the United States asked, and France welcomed this hypothesis." Government spokesman Valerie Pecresse said France is waiting for recommendations from the International Energy Agency before tapping its oil reserves.

At risk: India's army chief says the country's security is at risk, with army tanks running out of ammunition and its air defense system obsolete. Defense Minister A.K. Antony told India's Parliament today that the government was addressing the concerns.

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