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World

April 30, 2007



For the second time, Iran will participate in a regional conference on halting the violence in Iraq, its government announced. The two-day meeting is scheduled to open Thursday in Sharm el-Sheikh, the Egyptian seaside resort. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to represent the US and would be open to a dialogue with the Iranians, a spokesman said. The US accuses Iran of fomenting unrest in Iraq.

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The Taliban freed a Frenchwoman it had been holding hostage in Afghanistan "to make good relations" with her country's government, but said four others it kidnapped April 3 would not be let go until all French troops were withdrawn. At ceremonies marking the 15th anniversary of the end of communist rule in Afghanistan Saturday, President Hamid Karzai issued a new appeal to the Taliban to "give up sedition and evil and join [in] a peaceful life."

The Red Cross was taking seven Chinese nationals and two Africans to a safe location Sunday after they were freed by Ethiopian rebels. The Ogaden National Liberation Front, their captors, said the Chinese were had been treated well since their abduction in a raid on an oil exploration site April 24. The rebels killed 74 others in that attack. They said they'd resume such raids in the event of further oil exploration in the area, but China rejected the warning

Four bombs were dropped Sunday by Tamil separatist aircraft on targets outside Sri Lanka's capital, destroying a fuel tank, disrupting commercial air trafffic, and briefly cutting electricity. The bombing was the third so far by the rebels' light aircraft. Air Force jets counterattacked Tamil targets in the northern Jaffna peninsula, but there were no early reports of damage.

A statue that symbolizes Soviet-era occupation of Estonia will be reerected in a Tallinn military cemetary, reports said, after its removal triggered three nights of rioting by furious ethnic Russians. At least one participant was killed, more than 150 other people were hurt, many of them police, and roughly 1,000 were arrested in the worst violence since the former Soviet republic achieved independence in 1991. Estonia's government appealed for calm but also accused the Kremlin of meddling in the incident, which Russian President Vladimir Putin called a "crisis."

"A tremendous air-defense system," featuring missiles with a range of more than 120 miles, is to be developed by Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez said over the weekend. He denied, however, that the system would be part of a weapons buildup or would pose a threat to regional stability. Chávez repeatedly has accused the US of planning to invade his country. The leftist leader also said at a regional trade summit that Venezuela will put its vast oil reserves "at the service of Latin America," in particular Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Haiti. He said he hoped agreements to that effect would be signed at the two-day meeting.

Suspense was mounting in Cuba over reports that Fidel Castro may attend Tuesday's May Day celebrations, marking a symbolic return to power. Senior officials would not confirm such a plan but said Castro again is involved in all major government decisionmaking and "if it is possible, he will be there." His condition has been a state secret since he left the public eye last July 31 to undergo emergency surgery. Defense Minister Raul Castro, his younger brother, has been in charge of the government since then.

Thousands of mourners paid tribute in Moscow Sunday to renowned master cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich in the second funeral for a leading Russian advocate for democracy in less than a week. Rostropovich, whose death was announced last Friday, was memorialized in the same cathedral as Boris Yeltsin and was buried not far from the former president in the same cemetery.

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