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By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn / June 19, 2007



A team of UN experts will travel to North Korea Monday for discussions on verifying the shutdown of the reclusive communist nation's nuclear facilities, reports said. The trip will be at North Korea's invitation. A report by Russia's Interfax news agency also said the North plans to close its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in the second half of July.

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Iraqi troops did most of the fighting in a fierce clash with suspected weapons smugglers along the border with Iran that killed at least 36 people, a government spokesman said. More than 100 others were wounded. The battle was one of several across Iraq as US, British, and government forces conduct a new offensive against militants. Above, an Iraqi soldier guides Al Qaeda suspects arrested in Baqouba Monday.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took a phone call Monday from President Bush expressing US support "for him and the Palestinian moderates." The European Union also pledged to restore hundreds of millions of dollars in aid that stopped after Hamas won control of the Palestinian government in early 2005. The EU, however, said it wants to see "proper financial mechanisms" in place before resuming direct payments.

US forces in southeastern Afghanistan acknowledged the deaths of at least seven children in an airstrike on a religious school, but said witnesses indicated that they'd been forced by Al Qaeda militants to remain inside. The latest casualties bring to more than 120 the number of civilian noncombatants who've been killed by foreign forces in the past few months and to 1,500 over the past year and a half.

Seventeen people were hurt by bomb explosions in another day of violence across southern Thailand as Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont acknowledged that the situation in the region was deteriorating. He proposed that public schools in remote locations be transferred to sites that can better be protected by security forces. Unlike ousted predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra, Surayud has pursued a so-called "hearts and minds" approach to ending the growing separatist campaign, so far without success.

Expectations for success were low as negotiators for Morocco and the Polisario Front rebel movement opened two days of UN-sponsored talks on Western Sahara, the last area of Africa whose postcolonial future has yet to be decided. About 260,000 people live in the phosphate-rich region, to which Morocco maintains a historical claim. The rebel group, which has disputed the claim for 32 years, seeks a referendum on independence. Morocco has said the most it will offer is autonomy.

A Briton who called himself "Son of God" was at the center of a global child pornography ring smashed by police after a 10-month investigation, authorities in London said Monday. The probe uncovered more than 75,000 images on Timothy Cox's computer of youths being subjected to sexual abuse, plus evidence that he'd supplied 11,000 more to users of his website. Coxhas been in custody since last September. The authorities said more than 700 other suspects in 35 countries were arrested and 31 children had been "rescued."

Troubled Airbus Industrie, the chief competitor of Boeing Co., scored tens of billions of dollars worth of orders for new planes on the first day of the Paris Air Show. Qatar Airways alone signed contracts for $16 billion worth of Airbus' A350 jets, plus three superjumbo A380s. The European aerospace giant had fallen far behind Boeing in the race for business, in part because of technical problems that held up deliveries of the A380 (above, in a demonstration flight at the show Monday).

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