Top of the Morning: Friends of Syria Meeting Kicks Off; Senegelese Go to the Polls for a Contentious Vote

Top stories from DAWNS Digest.

Friends of Syria Meeting Kicks Off

Amid a paralyzed Security Council, the international community is looking for other ways to pressure the Assad regime. Enter the “Friends of Syria” meeting in Tunisia today. Top officials from around the world are on hand, but don’t expect to see any Russians or Chinese around. “The ‘Friends of Syria’ meeting, that Clinton will attend, will call on Syrian forces to stop firing to give international aid groups access to areas worst hit by the violence which are running out of medicine and food, according to a draft declaration obtained by Reuters. The draft also ‘recognized the Syrian National Council as a legitimate representative of Syrians seeking peaceful democratic change,’ a phrase which appeared to fall short of full endorsement of the most prominent group opposed to Assad. About 70 nations, including the United States, Turkey, and European and Arab countries that want Assad to step down, will take part in the talks, but Russia and China, which have jointly vetoed two U.N. Security Council resolutions on Syria, say they will stay away. (Reuters

Senegalese Head to the Polls in Contentious Vote

Senegal had been one of the region’s strongest democracies until 85 Year old incumbent President Wade re-jiggered the constitution to permit a third term. Activists and opposition candidates have protested vigorously, but on Friday night the actual voting will begin.  “As final rallies were being planned, protesters vowed once more to take to the streets on Friday afternoon to demand Wade’s departure. A group of women calling for peace were planning their own march, to urge calm. Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former president who is heading an African Union observation mission, has mediated disputes elsewhere on the continent and said he would do what he could “to prevent the preventable” in this normally quiet nation on Africa’s western coast. He was due to meet with the head of the ministry in charge of the election early Friday. United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnny Carson was also due in Dakar to observe the election.The U.S. has been uncharacteristically bold in telling Wade that he needed to go, and last month Carson’s deputy called Wade’s candidacy “regrettable” and urged him to hand power to the next generation.” (AJC

Money Quote from a Donor: USAID has launched a new initiative to combat what has become a modern-day slave trade. Administrator Raj Shah: “In line with President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development and under the leadership of Secretary Clinton, USAID has crafted a new Agency-wide policy to combat trafficking in persons. Drawing on best practices from the last decade, the new policy provides guidance on pursuing more effective, efficient and evidence-based approaches in counter-trafficking.” (USAID