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June 20, 2013

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Obama calls for bold action by US, Europe

BERLIN (AP) — Summoning the harsh history of this once-divided city, President Barack Obama on Wednesday cautioned the U.S. and Europe against “complacency” brought on by peace, pledging to cut America’s deployed nuclear weapons by one-third if Cold War foe Russia does the same.

The president also declared that his far-reaching surveillance programs had saved lives on both sides of the Atlantic, as he sought to defend the controversial data-mining to skeptical Europeans.

Speaking against the soaring backdrop of the Brandenburg Gate, Obama said that “bold reductions” to the U.S. and Russian nuclear forces were needed to move the two powers away from the war posture that continues to seed mistrust between their governments.

“We may not live in fear of nuclear annihilation, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe,” Obama said as he closed a three-day visit to Europe, his first trip to the continent since winning re-election.

Obama is grappling with both domestic disputes and foreign policy challenges that have distracted from his second term agenda. Two matters — the fierce civil war in Syria and the U.S. government’s domestic surveillance program — trailed Obama in Germany, as well as during the Group of 8 summit in Northern Ireland earlier this week.

US scrambles to save talks with Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Hopes dimmed for talks aimed at ending the Afghan war when an angry President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday suspended security negotiations with the U.S. and scuttled a peace delegation to the Taliban, sending American officials scrambling to preserve the possibility of dialogue with the militants.

What provoked the mercurial Karzai and infuriated many other Afghans was a move by the Taliban to cast their new office in the Gulf nation of Qatar as a rival embassy. The Taliban held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday in which they hoisted their flag and a banner with the name they used while in power more than a decade ago: “Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.”

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