WASHINGTON

Clinton assures Karzai U.S. will stand by Afghanistan

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton conceded Tuesday that U.S. relations with Afghanistan are strained, but assured President Hamid Karzai that the U.S. will stand behind his country long after the last American soldier is gone.

A day before Karzai meets President Barack Obama at the White House, Clinton and other senior administration officials gathered at the State Department with their Afghan counterparts for talks on how to force the Taliban to end their insurgency.

The backdrop to the meetings is a rocky relationship between the Obama administration and Karzai, and Tuesday’s talks were designed to present at least the appearance of a partnership on the mend..

LOS ANGELES

Controversial cross honoring American war dead stolen

Thieves have stolen a cross in the Mojave Desert that honored American war dead less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the religious symbol to remain on federal land.

The 7-foot-tall (2.1-meter-tall) cross was stolen late Sunday or early Monday by thieves who cut the metal bolts that attached the symbol to a rock in the sprawling desert preserve, National Park Service spokeswoman Linda Slater said.

Authorities had no immediate motive for the theft. A $25,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the thieves, she said.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars first placed a cross on the rock in 1934 to honor the dead troops of World War I. Slater said she did not know when the latest version was erected.

Late last month, the Supreme Court refused to order the removal of the cross by a 5-4 vote in a controversial case focusing on the separation of church and state.