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Mideast dominates Kerry's trip

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By The Washington Post
Saturday, May 25, 2013, 9:12 p.m.

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Visiting sub-Saharan Africa for the first time since taking office, Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday remained focused largely on the Middle East.

Kerry sandwiched a day of meetings at the African Union's 50th anniversary summit in Ethiopia between peacemaking efforts.

“How's it going with Syria?” Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy asked Kerry before the two sat down to discuss Egypt's slow-moving efforts to comply with economic reforms crucial to securing international loans.

“I'll let you know in a few days,” Kerry replied during the few minutes reporters were in the room.

Kerry thanked the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Egyptian leader for his country's cooperation in inaugurating new peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Egypt was one of several prominent Arab nations to back a renewal of a comprehensive Arab peace offering to Israel this year, but Qatar took the lead.

Kerry's meetings at the African summit began Saturday with a warning to U.S. partner Nigeria that it must not condone human rights violations committed by its forces fighting the Boko Haram militants in the country's north.

Boko Haram extremists are accused of terrorist attacks primarily against Nigerian police and Christian civilians. The group, whose informal name means “Western education is sinful,” is a fundamentalist Islamist movement that seeks to establish sharia law. It is accused of hundreds of killings in Nigeria.

Boko Haram is not on the State Department's list of designated foreign terrorist organizations. It is described as such on the National Counterterrorism Center's website.

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