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The UN Security Council's five permanent members were meeting in secret Wednesday in London to try to find common ground on Iran's nuclear program. Sources said Britain, France, and Germany would put forward a proposed package of incentives to reward the Iranians if they agreed to give up the enrichment of uranium but punish them if they refused. Due to Russian and Chinese objections, the threat of automatic military action against Iran was not part of the proposed package, the sources said. Traveling in Vietnam, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Iran to clarify whether it is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the US of "hatching plots" against his country, and the government in Tehran announced the test- firing of a long-range missile capable of carrying warheads.

Israel will give the Hamas-led Palestinian government until the end of the year to renounce violence and recognize its right to exist, a close alliy of new Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday. Otherwise, Olmert's government unilaterally will draw the final borders of the Jewish state, he said. In talks with President Bush in Washington Tuesday, Olmert won a surprisingly warm reception for that plan. Of more immediate concern to Hamas, gunmen seized and shot three of its members outside a Gaza Strip mosque in the continuing power struggle with rival Fatah. One of the wounded men later died.

Taliban casualties were heavy in another outbreak of fighting with coalition forces in southern Afghanistan Wednesday. At least 24 militants - and possibly as many as 60 - were killed in an attack on an Army patrol in volatile Uruzgan Province, an Afghan commander said. He said five of his soldiers died. The Taliban deaths come on top of at least 20 in an air assault on a village in the region Sunday night and Monday. A US military spokesman said the Taliban's numbers have grown in recent weeks, largely from recruiting local people "who may not believe in [their] cause but who need a job."

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A symbolic and long-awaited test run of the first train service between the two Koreas in more than 50 years was canceled Wednesday, just as it was about to take place. South Korean officials said the trial was called off by the North, presumably because the latter's military had objected on grounds that the route would have gone through the sensitive border area. South Korea has paid for restoring most of the infrastructure for the rail corridor, which hasn't been used since 1953.

The worst flooding in 60 years caused the deaths of at least 51 people in northern Thailand, and military units were rushed to the area to help search for 87 others who were missing and considered likely to have drowned. Landslides injured another 267 and trapped still more in houses engulfed in mud. Property damage was reported to more than 75,000 homes and farms. Meteorologists expected the rains to continue for several days.

At least eight men died and an unknown number of others were missing after gas exploded in a Chinese coal mine whose operators secretly reopened for business after the government had shut it in a safety crackdown, official news agencies reported Wednesday. The latest accident came as China's senior safety officer ordered faster efforts to pump out the flooded mine in an adjoining province where at least 57 workers have been trapped since May 18.

Thousands of people were forced to flee a huge fire that engulfed the cargo section of Turkey's Istanbul-Ataturk International Airport, disrupting commercial flights and endangering passenger terminals and hangars. At least three people were hurt, and early reports said others may have been trapped inside a burning building. There was no indication that the incident was terrorism-related, the reports said.

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