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Iran FM Says US Presence at Nuclear Talks a "Positive" Development


IRAN - US: Iran's foreign minister says U.S. participation at upcoming talks with Iran on its nuclear program is a positive development and that he expects progress.Speaking today in the Turkish capital, Ankara, Manouchehr Mottaki said the "new negotiation process" signals good developments for the future. He spoke of the possibility of talks with the U.S. on setting up a diplomatic presence in Tehran and opening direct flights between the two countries.Earlier this week, the United States announced it is sending a senior envoy, (Under Secretary of State) William Burns, to join talks with Iran's top nuclear negotiator (Saeed Jalili) and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana Saturday in Geneva.Attendance by Burns will mark a shift in U.S. policy.

NOKOR - NUCLEAR: A South Korean official says the foreign ministers from the six nations involved in the North Korean nuclear disarmament talks will meet in Singapore next week.The official said the meeting will take place on the sidelines of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum. It will be the first time the foreign ministers from the United States, Russia, China, Japan and the two Koreas will hold talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program.The official says the talks will be an informal gathering, and are not expected to produce any agreements.The high-level meeting will take place weeks after North Korea submitted a long-delayed declaration of its nuclear activities, ending a months-long impasse.

CAMBODIA - THAILAND: Thai and Cambodian troops deployed at a disputed area along their shared border have pointed their guns at one another for the first time since a standoff began earlier this week. Cambodian Brigadier General Chea Keo says tensions flared Thursday when several of his troops entered the compound of the ancient Preah Vihear temple. The incident lasted 10 minutes before the Cambodian troops left. Earlier Thursday, Thai villagers and police blocked protesters from reaching the ancient temple. They shouted at protesters and told them to "go home" and stop making trouble. Local residents are worried about the escalation of tensions between the Asian neighbors.

BURMA - ASEAN: Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo says Burma has approved a charter that commits Southeast Asian nations to notions of democracy and human rights.Speaking with reporters ahead of next week's Association for Southeast Asian Nations meetings in Singapore, Yeo says the military-ruled country recently approved the charter, and will be announcing its decision soon.Yeo says the charter will be a key item on the agenda when representatives of the 10-member body meet.ASEAN members agreed on the creation of the charter late last year and Yeo says Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines are the only countries yet to formally ratify the document.

AUSTRALIA - POPE: Pope Benedict is urging all the world's religions to unite against what he calls "sinister and indiscriminate" violence. The pontiff made the call today in Sydney, Australia before a group of interfaith leaders on the sidelines of the World Youth Day festival. Benedict says the unified voice of the religious community can convince the rest of the world to resolve conflicts through peaceful means, and with "full regard for human dignity." After the interfaith meeting, the pope offered a prayer to open the Stations of the Cross, a dramatic re-enactment of the last days of Jesus Christ. More than 100-thousand pilgrims have gathered in Australia from around the world for World Youth Day.

NEPAL POL: Nepal's three major political parties have failed to reach a consensus on who should be the country's first president ahead of Saturday's presidential vote in the new constituent assembly. The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, which won the most seats in April's election, has selected Ramraja Singh for the ceremonial position. The Nepali Congress party wants former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist-Leninist chose their leader, Madhav Kumar Nepal, for the post. But the Maoists rejected both, saying the position should go to someone from a smaller political party.

BANGLADESH - INDIA: Bangladesh says two of its border guards were shot and killed in an incident involving their Indian counterparts. Officials with the Bangladeshi Rifles unit say the guards were on patrol along the northwestern frontier when guards from India's Border Security Forces opened fire late Thursday. The officials say they have lodged a protest over the incident. Border guards on both sides regularly exchange fire along the four-thousand kilometer border, where illegal migration and smuggling takes place on a routine basis. The deadliest border clash between the two countries occurred in 2001, when 16 Indians guards and three Bangladeshi soldiers were killed.

IRAQ: The U.S military in Iraq says coalition forces have captured five suspected so-called special group criminals, including a suspected financier of Iranian-sponsored insurgents The military issued a statement saying coalition forces staged the raid earlytoday in the Admhaiyah section of Baghdad, about three kilometers northwest of Sadr City. The special groups designation is used by the military to describe Shi'ite insurgents backed by Iran. In other news, Kuwait's official news agency reports the country has named former military chief of staff Ali al-Momen as its first ambassador to Baghdad since the 1991 Gulf War.

ASIA - SEVERE WEATHER: Authorities in Taiwan now say at least seven people are dead in the the wake of the storm known as Kalmaegi. The storm struck the island late Thursday as a typhoon, slamming into Taiwan with heavy winds and rains, triggering flash floods and landslides. Among the casualties was a one-year-old child who was killed when a house in the southern city of Kaohsiung was buried in a landslide. A Taiwanese soldier died when he fell into a drainage ditch in the central city of Taichung. Meanwhile, another six people are missing in the storm's aftermath, including a man and woman whose boat capsized as they were being rescued from a flooded area.

UNICEF - WHO - WATER: Two United Nations agencies are warning that almost one billion people do not have access to clean drinking water, while more than a third of the world's population lacks good sanitation facilities. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) released a report Thursday which looks at how countries are improving -- or not improving -- access to water and sanitation. The report says sub-Saharan Africa is the region progressing most slowly, as many continue to struggle to find safe water sources. It says water shortages in the region are a great burden on women, who have to travel long distances to find water for their families' daily needs.

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