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A Wednesday night meeting was expected between Iran's senior nuclear negotiator and the foreign policy chief of the European Union in what was seen as the final opportunity for the Islamic republic to accept a package of incentives to stop enriching uranium. But as attention focused on the session in Berlin, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeated a vow that his government "will never give it up." Iran failed to meet the UN's Aug. 31 deadline for suspending enrichment and returning to full-scale negotiations and now faces the possible imposition of diplomatic and economic sanctions.

More than a dozen Sunni tribal leaders pledged their cooperation Wednesday to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in his bid to drive Al Qaeda out of Anbar Province, the nation's most violent. Their meeting in Baghdad reportedly produced no specifics but cemented an agreement reached two weeks ago. The pact is seen as doubly significant because Maliki is a Shiite. Although many Sunnis have opposed US intervention in Iraq, they also have come to resent Al Qaeda tactics and rigid interpretation of Sunni Islam.

Supporters of another term for Russian President Vladimir Putin were rebuffed in their call for a national referendum on whether he should stay in power. The Central Election Commission dismissed the appeal Wednesday, saying its view was unanimous. Putin's public approval rating is routinely in the 70 percent range, and his prestige has grown in tandem with Russia's clout as an energy producer. But he is due to leave office in 2008 and the Constitution forbids him from seeking a new four-year term. He has said he'll abide by that provision, although he reserves the right to choose his successor.

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Incumbent President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil appears headed for certain reelection – and by a comfortable margin – in the first round of balloting Sunday, results of a late opinion poll showed. Despite allegations of scandal involving senior figures in his own campaign, the respected Sensus Institute survey showed Lula with a 24-point margin over his main challenger, ex-São Paulo State Gov. Geraldo Alckmin. The president has denied any involvement in the controversy, in which persons close to him are alleged to have tried to buy damaging information about Alckmin for almost $800,000 obtained from a bank in Miami.

As police looked on, environmental activists dumped almost a ton of volcanic sludge at the gates of Indonesia's welfare ministry to protest official handling of a mudflow that has inundated four towns, displacing thousands of people and wrecking their livelihoods. Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie's family owns controlling interest in a company that is blamed for a well-drilling accident in East Java last May, causing 1.7 million cubic feet of mud a day to gush to the surface. The government is considering plans to divert the flow into the sea, where it is considered likely to kill fish. Geologists say the flow may be impossible to stop.

Four million voters are registered for Thursday's presidential election in Zambia, pitting incumbent Levy Mwanawasa against millionaire challenger Michael Sata, businessman Hakainde Hichilema, and two other candidates. Analysts say the race will turn on the issues of corruption, unemployment, and the unpopular presence of Chinese investors and merchants invited in by Mwana-wasa to help spur the economy. Few opinion polls have been reliable enough to measure the probable outcome, reports said.

Thousands of public school teachers protested in the streets of Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, opening a new front in the ongoing battle over reform of the nation's education system. Organizers said up to 80 percent of teachers joined the demonstration; the Education Ministry put the turnout at about 25 percent. The demonstrators demanded a larger pay increase than the government says it can afford. In June, hundreds of thousands of students disrupted the capital and other cities for three weeks in the largest revolt in more than a decade.

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