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Only ‘direct’ talks can bring peace: Afghan official

WASHINGTON — An Afghan official said Thursday his government hopes peace talks can achieve “a political solution” with the Taliban movement, but stressed that any agreement must come from “direct” negotiations the two parties. “Ultimately direct peace negotiations will have to be between Afghan partners,” said Afghan foreign ministry spokesman…

U.N. complaint alleges illegal pressure on Spain to stop Bush torture trials

A complaint filed Thursday with the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers alleges that the United States and the government of Spain colluded to stop the Spanish judiciary from prosecuting U.S. figures for torture under a legal theory construct known as universal jurisdiction. Those individuals…

Italy cruise wreck search resumes amid fuel fears

Italian rescuers resumed their search on board a crashed cruise ship on Thursday, as salvage workers prepared to pump out fuel from its tanks to avoid an environmental disaster. The rescue operation had to be halted on Wednesday after the half-submerged ship shifted while rescuers were still inside, sparking fears…

Cambodian toddler dies from bird flu: WHO

PHNOM PENH — A two-year-old Cambodian boy has died from bird flu, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, in the country’s first fatality from the virus this year. The child, from northwestern Banteay Meanchey province, fell ill on January 3 and was taken to hospital where he tested positive for…

U.S. navy rescues Iranian fishermen from sinking boat

WASHINGTON — The US Navy announced it led a rescue operation to assist the crew of an Iranian fishing vessel in distress in the Gulf of Oman, the third in 10 days in an area marked by tension between Washington and Tehran. A Seahawk helicopter from the guided missile destroyer…

16 killed in two attacks in southern Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Two attacks just hours apart killed 16 people and wounded more than 20 others on Wednesday in the insurgency-wracked southern Afghan province of Helmand, officials said. A suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed 10 civilians and two policemen in the first attack at a bazaar, while an…

Escaped dissident warns of China role in world politics

WASHINGTON — A prominent Chinese dissident who fled last week to the United States cautioned Wednesday over Beijing’s influence in the world, saying that the communist state was bent on exporting its model. Yu Jie, a writer who defiantly published a critical biography of Premier Wen Jiabao in 2010 in…

Woman ‘sold into slavery’ returns to Taiwan

AIPEI — A Taiwanese woman who was allegedly sold into “slavery” as a child returned from the United States to the island Wednesday for a much-anticipated family reunion, officials and media said. Television images showed the woman, in her 20s and who identified herself as “Isabel”, arriving at the northern…

IMF seeks $500 bn more as euro crisis rages

The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday it needs up to $500 billion more to pad its war chest as the European debt crisisincreasingly threatens the global economy. With several European countries veering on recession and Greece on the brink of default, the IMF said it lacks the resources to be the planet’s lender…

Panetta: U.S. prepared for Hormuz Strait action

The United States is “fully prepared” for any confrontation with Iran over the strategic Strait of Hormuz, but hopes a dispute would be resolved peacefully, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday. “We obviously always continue to make preparations to be prepared for any contingency, but we are not making any special steps… because we’re fully…

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