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Gates: US Wants Iran Answer on Nuclear Talks by September


US-MIDEAST: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the Obama administration hopes Iran will respond to an offer for talks on its nuclear program soon. Gates spoke in Israel, where he is discussing Iran's nuclear ambitions with top officials. He said Washington hopes Iran will answer the diplomatic overture in time for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in September.
Standing alongside Gates, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel is taking no options off the table regarding Iran's nuclear program, indicating a military strike remains a possibility. But Mr. Barak said the priority now should be given to diplomacy.

US-CHINA-TALKS: Chinese and U.S. officials begin two days of talks Monday intended to further their cooperation on the economy, the environment, and security. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are heading the U.S. delegation to the first annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue with China. Beijing is sending 150 officials to the talks in Washington. That's the largest delegation China has ever sent to the U.S.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to deliver an opening address. Administration officials say the United States wants China to rely less on exports and more on expanding its domestic markets to fuel its economic growth.

NOKOR NUCLEAR: North Korea has repeated its willingness to engage in new dialogue on its nuclear weapons program, while insisting it would not return to six-party talks. In a statement carried Monday by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, a foreign ministry spokesman said, "There is a specific and reserved form of dialogue that can address the current situation." The statement did not elaborate, but Pyongyang has sought direct negotiations with Washington for a long time. Monday's statement came after North Korean Ambassador Sin Son Ho told reporters in New York Friday that Pyongyang is ready for what he called "negotiations on issues of common concern." But he said his nation has made it clear that the six-nation disarmament talks are "gone forever."

BURMA-SUU KYI: The human rights group Amnesty International said Monday it is awarding its highest honor, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, to Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The honor is to be announced formally at a concert by the band U2 in Dublin later Monday by lead singer Bono, an award winner himself, .
The announcement comes as the prosecution presents its closing arguments in Aung San Suu Kyi's trial in Rangoon on charges of violating the terms of her house arrest. Defense lawyers presented their final arguments Friday, in an effort to save the Nobel laureate from a possible five-year prison term. Court officials said the prosecution may wrap up its case Monday, but defense lawyer Nyan Win told reporters that it might take two or three weeks for the verdict to be delivered.

AFGHANISTAN: The Afghan government says the country has struck its first-ever local cease-fire deal with Taliban insurgents. The truce was raeched in northwestern Badghis province in a bid to improve security ahead of next month's presidential elections. Under the deal, the Taliban agreed to allow election candidates to set up offices in the province without being attacked. The government hope to make similar deals in other parts of the country.


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