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US Joins Iran Nuclear Talks for First Time


IRAN - US: A senior U.S. envoy is, for the first time, taking part in talks with Iran about its nuclear program today in GenevaUnder Secretary of State William Burns joined Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana for the closed-door meeting. Officials from Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China were also due to attend.An Iranian official told reporters as the talks began that there is no chance his country would freeze its uranium enrichment program -- a key demand of Western powers. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday sending Burns to the talks is a "strong signal" the United States is serious about diplomacy with Tehran.

OBAMA - AFGHANISTAN: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is in Afghanistan, at the start of an international tour aimed at bolstering his foreign policy credentials.A spokesman said Senator Obama arrived today Kabul, where he is expected to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and confer with U.S. military leaders.Obama will also meet with American military leaders when his tour takes him to Iraq.His Republican rival, Senator John McCain, has praised Obama for making the overseas trip but has criticized him for making policy statements on Iraq and Afghanistan before leaving.

AUSTRALIA - POPE: Pope Benedict has apologized for a sexual abuse scandal involving Catholic clergy in Australia, and has called for those responsible to be brought to justice.At a mass in Sydney today, the Pope said the behavior of pedophile priests was "evil" and a grave betrayal of trust that has brought great shame to the Catholic Church. Support groups for victims in Australia say the apology was not sufficient and have demanded "appropriate" levels of financial compensation.The group Broken Rites says at least 107 Australian clergy have been convicted of sexual abuse, but campaigners insisted that there could be thousands of victims because only a few cases ever go to court.

IRAQ: The Iraqi Parliament has voted to accept the return of six Sunni ministers to the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, giving a boost to the nation's reconciliation.The parliament voted today to add the ministers to the cabinet to fill openings created when a bloc of Shiites left the government last year. The Sunni bloc - known as the Iraqi Accordance Front - had also withdrawn from the government last year after a series of political disputes.Meanwhile, Iraqi officials say British Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrived in Baghdad today for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other leaders.

NEPAL ELECTION: Lawmakers in Nepal are voting for the country's first president following the abolition of the Hindu monarchy.The country's three major political parties have failed to reach a consensus on who should occupy the ceremonial office.The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, which won the most seats in April's election, has selected Ramraja Prasad Singh for the 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.

CAMBODIA - THAILAND: Cambodia and Thailand sent military reinforcements to their shared border today, as a standoff over an ancient Hindu temple entered its fifth day.The standoff at the Preah Vihear temple began Tuesday, when Thai soldiers crossed the border after Cambodian authorities arrested three activists for entering the country illegally to reach the ancient temple. The activists have since been released to Thai authoritiesSenior officials of the two countries have agreed to meet in the next few days to discuss the issue, but most Cambodian villagers living nearby have already fled their homes.

SUDAN - ARAB LEAGUE: Arab foreign ministers are set to hold an emergency meeting in (the Egyptian capital) Cairo Saturday to discuss the latest developments in relations between Sudan and the international community.Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa also has announced plans to travel to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, Sunday, following the emergency summit.Sudanese government officials said they requested the Arab League meeting in order to show that the country's judicial system is capable of addressing alleged crimes in (the western region of) Darfur.

UN FOOD: U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon says the rising costs of food and fuel threaten (Millennium Development) goals of cutting poverty, hunger and disease worldwide in half by 2015.The U.N. secretary-general told the General Assembly it will cost between 25 and 40 billion dollars each year to boost agricultural production and assist farmers worldwide. Mr. Ban said that the international community must take steps to ensure that vulnerable populations are not left without help. He warned that unless action is taken, more than 100 million people around the world could slide into hunger.

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