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Afghan Military: Coalition Forces Kill 50 Taliban Fighters in Battle



AFGHANISTAN-VIOLENCE: An Afghan military official says coalition forces have killed about 50 Taliban fighters in a battle that followed a deadly Taliban ambush on a U.S.-Afghan military convoy. Afghan army spokesman (Maj.) Abdul Basir Ghori says the battle happened Saturday in the (Bala Baluk district of the) western province of Farah. Earlier Saturday, a Taliban ambush in the area killed three U.S. soldiers and seven Afghan troops. Ghori says coalition forces retaliated with air strikes. There was no independent confirmation of the Taliban deaths.
Another two U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday in a bombing in eastern Afghanistan. Other militant attacks around the country killed at least 28 civilians and security guards. Violence has risen steadily in Afghanistan in recent years as the Taliban has fought to extend control across wide swathes of the countryside. The U.S. military and NATO have deployed a record number of troops to try to help Afghan forces crush the insurgency.

US-AFGHANISTAN: Published reports say the Obama administration will soon grant detainees at a U.S. prison in Afghanistan more ability to challenge their custody. The reports (published Saturday in The New York Times and The Washington Post) quote unnamed administration officials as saying the new privileges will be given to the roughly 600 detainees at the U.S.-run prison at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul. Under the new system, officials say the U.S. military will assign a representative to each Bagram prisoner for the first time. The representatives would not be lawyers, but would be able to call witnesses and submit evidence in the detainees' defense. The U.S. military has been holding the detainees at Bagram as "enemy combatants," some for up to six years. They have had no access to lawyers to challenge their detentions or hear allegations against them, unlike terrorism suspects at a U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

US-MIDDLE EAST: U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is expected to make a final push to revive Mideast peace talks during a visit to the region before a U.N. General Assembly meeting next week. Mitchell arrived in Israel late Saturday ahead of separate talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. His agenda will be topped by Israeli settlement expansion. The United States has asked Israel to freeze settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel says new settlement construction is necessary to accommodate population growth.

Palestinians say they will not resume peace negotiations until all settlement construction is stopped.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Sunday to discuss reviving peace talks with the Palestinians, ahead of a possible three-way meeting with the U.S. on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

KAZAKHSTAN- FIRE: Kazakhstan's government says a fire at a health center for drug addicts has killed 38 people. The Kazakh Emergency Ministry says the fire engulfed the treatment facility early Sunday in the southeastern city of Taldykorgan. It says emergency workers rescued 40 patients and medical staff from the building. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
Violations of safety regulations are common in the former Soviet state, making state-run facilities prone to fires.

IRAN-NUCLEAR: The United States says it plans to focus on Iran's nuclear program in upcoming talks with Tehran, despite Iran's refusal to discuss the subject. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says Iran has a responsibility to walk away from what he described as its "illicit nuclear weapons program." He says that is what the U.S. goal will be in negotiations with Iran. On Friday, the United States and other world powers accepted Iran's new offer to hold talks, even though Tehran said it will not negotiate on its nuclear program. Iranian officials say they are pleased the U.S. and other world powers accepted the offer. But Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki says Iran will not compromise on its "inalienable right."


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