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Afghan president has warned of militia abuses

President Hamid Karzai told U.S. military commanders more than a year ago that Afghan militias working for U.S. troops were committing abuses against villagers and that their actions were undermining the effort to combat terrorism, the president's spokesman said Thursday.

But the Afghan militia fighters, who are paid to guide U.S. forces, have continued to assault and rob villagers _ including during a search operation last week in the village of Dai Chopan, spokesman Jawed Ludin said, confirming a report of the Dai Chopan incident in Wednesday's editions of the Los Angeles Times.

The militias wear U.S. military camouflage fatigues on the missions, and Dai Chopan villagers say that besides serving as guides, they also have conducted searches. The villagers emphasized that U.S. soldiers on the mission last week did not witness the abuses. But elders said they had asked U.S. unit commanders not to bring their militia guides into the village because the guides had beaten and robbed people.

Navy ship to pay call

in Vietnam next month

HANOI, Vietnam _ An American warship plans a port call at Vietnam next month, the first such visit since the Vietnam War ended 30 years ago, a U.S. diplomat said Wednesday during a briefing for journalists.

In another sign of improving relations, Vietnam's defense minister, Pham Van Tra, is to visit Washington next month, the diplomat said.

State Department backs

sanctions on Syria

WASHINGTON _ State Department officials said Thursday that diplomacy with Syria has had little success and they are prepared to support a sanctions bill that Congress is close to passing.

"We have to recognize that we have some quite significant problems in our relationship," William Burns, assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The House has passed the bill and the Senate could follow suit next week.

Elsewhere . . .

JAPAN QUAKE: A strong earthquake shook the northern part of Japan's main island early today, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. The quake had preliminary magnitude of 6.8 and was centered offshore about 250 miles north of Tokyo.