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Rice Appeals for
Equal Women's Rights

Rice Appeals for
Equal Women's Rights

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led a group of powerful women, including presidents and prime ministers, in calling Thursday for a world where women's talents are used as much as men's to make peace and fight poverty.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led a group of powerful women, including presidents and prime ministers, in calling Thursday for a world where women's talents are used as much as men's to make peace and fight poverty.

Rice, speaking at a conference on women's rights, joined an international appeal for a fairer political role for women, especially in addressing the urgent problems of the day -- climate change, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, and impoverishment.

''In today's modern world, no country can achieve lasting success and stability and security if half of its population is sitting on the sidelines,'' Rice said.

''We in the international community should make sure that we hear the voices of women and account for their concerns wherever we seek to establish or keep the peace. If we do that, we are actually making the job of keeping the peace easier.''

More than 50 participants, including Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko of Ukraine, Foreign Minister Olubanke King-Akerele of Liberia, and Egyptian first lady Suzanne Mubarak, participated at the talks to promote women's empowerment. International Women's Day is Saturday.

The European Union's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who hosted the conference, said participants agreed to continue high-level talks to ensure that expanding the roles of women stays at the top of the international agenda.

Ferrero-Waldner said they also agreed to push for the full implementation of the eight-year-old U.N. resolution 1325, which calls for the involvement of women in conflict resolution. ''Women can play a much bigger role,'' she said. ''It's not yet totally implemented; therefore we have a lot to do.''

Many participants, especially Israeli and Palestinian female lawmakers, complained they have been kept out of peace talks by their male counterparts. ''Women should be at the table,'' said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Israeli lawmaker Amira Dotan said she was eager to work with her Palestinian counterparts ''to look for new initiatives, a new way of thinking,'' to bring peace to the Middle East.

Ana Palacio, vice president of the World Bank, said women also should play a key role in fighting poverty, pointing to U.N. statistics that say 70% of the world's poor are women.

Tymoshenko said women could offer leadership that could prevent conflict. ''It's up to women to break out of these unhealthy traditions and dogmas and lead people down a different path,'' she said.

Rice said it was important to send young girls a message of hope they can one day become whatever they want to be. She noted proudly that the United States has not had a white male secretary of state for 12 years.

At the United Nations, where International Women's Day was being observed two days early, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged nations to invest more spending on job opportunities, health care, nutrition, and other pressing needs of women worldwide.

''Investing in women helps us fight all the challenges of our time -- from poverty, hunger, and illiteracy to environmental degradation and disease, including HIV/AIDS,'' he said during a meeting of a U.N. commission on gender equality and advancement of women. (AP)

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