Top Officials Attend Germany Conference

MUNICH (AP) -- Dozens of world leaders, top defense officials and diplomats were gathering Friday in southern Germany for an influential security conference, amid growing strains between the U.S. and other NATO nations and Russia over the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is heading this year's American delegation to the Munich Security Conference. Other participants include British Prime Minister Theresa May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey.

The conference provides an informal setting where diplomacy is often conducted on the sidelines, and already officials from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany have said they'll meet for talks on the conflict in Ukraine.

Organizer Wolfgang Ischinger told reporters his expectations were high heading in to the conference, which wraps up Sunday.

"I hope that Munich can contribute to the beginning of a least some kind of conversation again, not only between Moscow and Washington but also between Moscow and other relevant countries, I think for example ... of Ukraine, and of other hotspots around the world," he said.

"So, I am not without hope, but we've got to be realistic, the world still looks pretty bad at this moment in terms of global stability."

(KA)