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Clinton Presses Issue of Human Rights in Central Asia

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (FILE).

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (FILE).

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reaffirmed the U.S. government's commitment to improving human rights in Central Asia during a town hall meeting in Kazakhstan.

Clinton spoke Tuesday to a group of students and community activists in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana, ahead of the summit there of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

She said Kazakhstan has proven its commitment to the human-rights principles of the OSCE by hosting the OSCE summit. But she warned there is still more work to be done concerning development of human rights and democracy in the Central Asian nation.

Clinton also said the OSCE's Helsinki Accords are a top priority for President Barack Obama's administration. Part of the accords, include the 56-member organization's provisions on human rights.

Clinton is one of more than 60 top officials from around the world to meet at the first OSCE summit in 11 years. Leaders will discuss including urgent security challenges and the situation in Afghanistan at the two-day meeting.

Clinton's trip to Kazakhstan is the first stop on a diplomatic tour that also will take her to Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Bahrain.

While in Astana, she also is scheduled to discuss the U.S.-Kazakh strategic partnership with President Nursultan Nazabayev and Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev.

In Kyrgyzstan, Clinton is due to meet with President Roza Otunbayeva and review political developments following the country's October parliamentary elections.

In her speech Tuesday, Clinton praised Kyrgyzstan for what she called "remarkable elections." She threw her support behind Kyrgyz leaders as they begin what she called, a "very difficult path" to democracy.

From Kyrgyzstan, Clinton will travel to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, to hold talks with President Islam Karimov.

The top U.S. diplomat closes her trip in Bahrain, where she will deliver a keynote address at an annual forum, The Manama Dialogue 2010. She returns to the United States on December 3.