World

Seven hours of meetings between Iran's senior nuclear negotiator and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana have produced no agreements, the two conceded Thursday. But they said "some possible conclusions" had been reached and that talks would continue "as soon as possible." As Solana and Ali Larijani met in Berlin, however, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech that his government would refuse to halt the enrichment of uranium that could be used in a nuclear weapon "even for one day."

More than 4,000 "foreigners who came to fight" on the side of terrorists in Iraq have died so far, a new audiotape purportedly recorded by the new Al Qaeda leader there acknowledged. The voice of Abu Hamza al-Muhajir could not be verified immediately. But if the tape is authentic, it's believed to be the first major admission of manpower losses by the terrorists. Muhajir became the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who died in a US airstrike in June. The tape also appeals to explosives experts and nuclear scientists to join Al Qaeda's ranks.

The much-anticipated first formal meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may be only days from taking place, the latter told interviewers Thursday. He said, however, that "the distance [to be traveled in forging a lasting peace with the Palestinians] is long; we don't have to be hasty." Olmert and Abbas had a brief, informal chat in June, but within days Palestinian militants kidnapped an Israeli soldier and the Jewish state responded with an major offensive in the Gaza Strip. Abbas is said to be uninterested in talks with Olmert if they focus only on the return of the soldier.

The imprisoned leader of the Kurdish separatist movement in Turkey appealed for his followers to declare a new and unconditional truce. Abdullah Oçalan faxed to the Reuters news agency a statement that called such a move "a last chance" to achieve a peaceful solution to the new wave of violence that has targeted the vital tourism industry in recent weeks. Four earlier Kurdish cease-fires have been ignored by the government, perhaps because they came with conditions. More than 30,000 people have been killed since Kurdistan Workers Party rebels opened their campaign in 1984.

Seven more women were arrested in Kismayo, Somalia, and Islamist militiamen fired warning shots at other residents protesting their takeover of the port city for a third straight day. Residents are angry over the seizure of the city, although the leader of the Union of Islamic Courts denied that it violated the cease-fire agreed to with the internationally recognized interim government. He said "our presence ... is perfectly natural" because Kismayo was not under the government's control.

A new prime minister has been chosen to head the interim government in Thailand, coup leaders said Thursday. But they wouldn't identify him beyond guaranteeing "that it is someone the public can accept." Speculation has centered on ex-military chief Surayud Chulanont and Supachai Panitchpakdi, who led the World Trade Organization. Surayud was forced to retire by ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The coup leaders have said Thaksin's interim replacement will serve only until a national election is organized a year from now.

Wind gusts as high as 100 m.p.h. from typhoon Xangsane killed at least 10 people in the Philippines Thursday and caused heavy property damage and a "total blackout" on densely populated Luzon Island. The 13th storm of the season, accompanied by driving rain, then headed across the South China Sea toward Vietnam, where it is projected to make landfall Sunday. But Filipino meteorologists identified a new tropical depression that they said could follow Xangsane as soon as this weekend.

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