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Ten hostages being held by Muslim kidnapers in Iraq were freed unharmed, although their Turkish employer said it won't honor a demand to cease work there after all. VINSAN, a construction company, said it was not clear that the abductions were politically motivated. Earlier, the company announced it was ending operations in Iraq. The hostages, all truck drivers, said they were well-treated. But a radical website showed the beheading of another captive, described as an Iraqi who was accused of cooperating with US troops.

If possible, elections officials in Afghanistan are expected to begin counting ballots from the historic vote for president Wednesday. But logistical difficulties were posing major challenges. Reports said the paperwork accompanying ballot boxes arriving at regional counting centers was faulty. Moreover, a UN helicopter sent to collect the votes from a rural northern province was forced down because of engine trouble before arriving at its destination. The aircraft was too high in the mountains to be recovered, a UN spokesman said.

Senior US officials scorned an offer by Iran to guarantee that it would not build nuclear weapons in return for recognition that it had the right to enrich uranium. Iran already is obliged by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency to stop enriching uranium, one official said. The US reaction came amid reports that Western diplomats would travel to Washington later this week for talks on a possible new initiative in the confrontation with Iran: an unspecified reward for the Tehran government if it gave up the technology used in making nuclear weapons.

A $10 billion unit of Russian oil giant Yukos will be sold and the proceeds applied to the company's massive back-taxes bill, the Justice Ministry said. Only a week ago, the government said it would grant Yukos's main production subsidiary 90 days to settle questions about its license - a sign that the company and the Kremlin might yet arrive at a deal to settle their long-running dispute over taxes, analysts said at the time.

With US troops conspicuous by their absence for the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Spaniards celebrated their National Day with a military parade in Madrid. In place of the Americans, who'd been invited each year in a gesture of solidarity by the government of ex-Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, was a contingent of French soldiers. Aznar's government had been a staunch ally of the US in Iraq but was voted out of office in March, three days after terrorists bombed commuter trains in Madrid, killing more than 200 people.

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