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Diplomat sees progress in changing opinion of America

Karen Hughes is the first to admit her job isn't easy.

As Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, she's traveled to more than 40 countries trying to build bonds of friendship across culture and religion.

"The first step is to make sure we turn world opinion against those who want to kill us," Hughes said Friday at a Women's Conference hosted by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and his wife, Elaine.

The 23rd annual conference focuses on women's issues, from domestic violence to breaking the glass ceiling.

Hughes said the nation is making inroads, as more and more people in the Muslim world are turned away from terrorists who often target innocent Muslims.

Still, she says, she doubts public opinion polls that express anti-Americanism will change anytime soon.

"I don't think the public opinion polls are going to change quickly or easily, particularly during a time of war," Hughes said. "It will be a huge challenge for our country over the next 20 to 30 years."

Speaking to a room filled mostly with women at the Grand America Hotel, Hughes pointed to some Bush administration successes around the globe, such as a youth English and leadership training program in Muslim countries, and the newfound freedom of women in Afghanistan.

She also highlighted Laura Bush's plans to travel to the Middle East to raise awareness about breast cancer. And she encouraged the audience to act as ambassadors through travel abroad, or through hosting an exchange student.

"Together we have the opportunity to imagine a better and safer world," she said. "I hope you will take the opportunity to seize it and bring it out."