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Clinton Condemns 'Culture of Violence' Against Women in Papua New Guinea

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walks past a group of girls in traditional dress after a meeting with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare in Port Moresby, 03 Nov, 2010.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged the government of Papua New Guinea to end what she called a "culture of violence" against women, as she made a brief visit to the South Pacific nation.

Clinton flew to Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby, Wednesday, from Malaysia, the previous stop on her two-week tour of Asia.

In a visit that last several hours, Clinton held talks with Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Michael Somare and a group of women's rights activists. Rights groups say Papua New Guinea has one of the world's highest rates of violence and rape against women and girls.

Clinton said the Obama administration is working on a program to end the violence in cooperation with local groups and U.S. energy giant Exxon Mobil, a major investor in Papua New Guinea. Mr. Somare denied that his nation is cruel to women, calling such reports exaggerated.

Clinton later departed for New Zealand, the next stop of her tour.

Rights activists say some women in Papua New Guinea have been killed on suspicion of sorcery. The rural nation is populated by hundreds of indigenous tribes.

Clinton said the United States also is prepared to help Papua New Guinea manage an expected windfall from a $15 billion natural gas project to supply energy to Asian countries. Exxon is the biggest stakeholder in the venture.

The top U.S. diplomat said that if revenues from such projects are not handled the right way, a country may become poorer and suffer what she called a "resource curse." Some people in Papua New Guinea are concerned that its new riches will encourage corruption.

Clinton offered to send U.S. experts to the country to give advice on managing a sovereign wealth fund that will handle the money.

The top U.S. diplomat also discussed climate change with Mr. Somare. Rising sea levels blamed on global warming have threatened the coastlines of low-lying Pacific island nations.

Clinton called for more progress in international negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say cause global warming.

She is the first U.S. secretary of state to visit Papua New Guinea since 1998. Her regional tour also has taken her to Vietnam, China and Cambodia, with final stops planned for Australia and American Somoa.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.