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Highlights from the world's press

Compiled by Sunaina Gulati for CNN
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(CNN) -- Friday marks World AIDS Day and once again the impact of the disease is highlighted around the world.

In the UK, The Independent runs an editorial which says the figures in a recently released UNAIDS report are numbing and that "we have a moral imperative to act." They quote the U.N. report which shows that some 40 million people are now living with HIV. An additional 12,000 have been infected every day and three million people have died from AIDS this year.

"AIDS is now the leading cause of death among members of parliament, teachers and business leaders in the continent and -- a sinister development -- African women are now more likely than men to contract the disease. A swathe is being cut through the continent. Average life expectancy there is now just 47 years. Worst of all, there are worrying signs that countries where infection rates were stable, or in decline, are seeing a resurgence of the disease."

Writing for The Washington Post, Pramit Mitra underlines that the acceleration of the spread of HIV/AIDS in India has potentially disastrous consequences for U.S. strategic interests.

"From the point of view of overall American interests, what happens in India is of great consequence to the U.S., and AIDS is one of the principal question marks hanging over India's future. Strategic relations between the U.S. and India have dramatically strengthened in the past decade, especially since September 11, 2001, as evidenced by the recent bi-partisan support in the U.S. Senate in favor of legislation permitting civilian nuclear cooperation. India, a secular democracy, occupies a vital space -- and has become a key U.S. friend -- between the two traditional areas of heavy U.S. security involvement in the Middle East and South East Asia.

Bush, al-Maliki and Iraq

The New York Times says the Democrats may have won the mid-term elections but following President Bush and Iraqi president Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's news conference yesterday, the idea of rapid American troop withdrawal does not seem likely.

"Even the Democrats, with an eye toward 2008, have dropped talk of a race for the exits, in favor of a brisk stroll. But that may be the only solace for Mr. Bush as he returns from a messy encounter with Iraq's prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

In the 23 days since the election, the debate in Washington and much of the country appears to have turned away from Mr. Bush's oft-repeated insistence that the only viable option is to stay and fight smarter. The most talked-about alternatives now include renewed efforts to prepare the Iraqi forces while preparing to pull American combat brigades back to their bases, or back home, sometime next year. The message to Iraq's warring parties would be clear: Washington's commitment to making Iraq work is not open-ended."

In the UK, The Times says that President Bush is not listening to his national security adviser because while he knows clearly what's going on from the memo that was published earlier this week, his actions have done nothing to reflect it.

"In it (the memo), his national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, describes how Mr. Maliki's Shiite-dominated government has deprived Sunnis of basic services, blocked military actions against Shiite targets and purged Iraq's most effective military commanders to ensure Shiite dominance. The memo also warns that Mr. Maliki may not have 'the political or security capabilities' to free himself from his narrow militia-dominated political base. But the president's performance this week -- his refusal to impose any deadlines on Mr. Maliki to start reconciliation talks and break with the militias, and his refusal to give the Pentagon a deadline to stand up an effective Iraqi Army -- tells us once again that Mr. Bush does not listen."

The Daily Star in Lebanon says Washington has no right to blame anyone else for Iraq's problems.

"What's more important than getting U.S. troops out of Iraq is the need for Americans to withdraw their iron fist from that country. Despite the highly publicized official ceremony in which sovereignty was handed over in April of 2004, the Americans are still pulling nearly all of the strings. More than two years after the U.S. 'granted' this so-called sovereignty, Iraqis still do not have the exclusive right to the control over their territory without any outside interference. For example, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki still cannot order the Iraqi military to conduct any major operations without securing U.S. permission ahead of time. Yet American officials openly blame Maliki for his failure to quell the violence, despite the fact that they created the mess and then tied his hands."

The new Golden Triangle

Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan are shaping up to be the new Golden Triangle says Antonio Maria Costa of the International Herald Tribune. The description that previously belonged to Laos, Myanmar and Thailand, which were notorious for producing opium and heroin, has shifted.

"Today, Afghanistan alone produces about 90 percent of the world's opium. Almost all of it goes through neighboring Iran and Pakistan, along with processed heroin and morphine. The center of this new triangle is Baluchistan, a region which straddles the borders of the three countries. I recently visited the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchistan, close to the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. At night, this barren terrain is often the scene of gun battles between Iranian security forces and convoys of heavily armed drug traffickers. These convoys can be huge, consisting of 30 or 40 vehicles, some mounted with antiaircraft guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers."

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