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By Compiled from wire service reports by Tony Azios / August 2, 2007



Relatives of the 21 remaining South Korean hostages being held in Afghanistan met with US officials on Wednesday near the US Embassy in Seoul to plead for assistance, saying American intervention might be the last hope to free them from captivity. A diplomatic mission of seven South Korean lawmakers departs Thursday to meet US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in order to discuss possible solutions to the two-week-old crisis. Although there was no confirmation that a military operation had begun, Afghan army choppers dropped leaflets warning the Taliban of an impending assault to rescue the hostages.

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Sudan's government described a UN Security Council Resolution to deploy 26,000 UN and African Union troops and police to Darfur as "practical" on Wednesday, and said it would cooperate fully with the deployment. The joint operation, which was authorized on Tuesday to use force to protect civilians, will cost $2 billion in its first year, but is expected to take up to a year to get fully mobilized in Sudan.

In a rare rescue in a country with the world's deadliest mines, 69 miners were safely pulled from a flooded shaft in central China on Wednesday after being trapped for three days. Rescuers had piped in oxygen and poured in 149 gallons of milk down the 2,625-foot ventilation pipe, which the miners drank form their helmets.

Pope Benedict XVI expressed his sense of joy for Iraq on Wednesday, due to their national soccer team's Sunday victory against Saudi Arabia in the Asia Cup tournament. "Just as so many times I have cried with the Iraqi people, on this occasion I rejoiced with them," said the pope.

One full year after handing over power to his brother Raul Castro, longstanding Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has been recuperating from a series of intestinal operations, said Wednesday that Cuba is "marching ahead" without his direct leadership and gave no indication that he intends to resume office. Castro has not appeared in public since the transfer of power on July 31, 2006.

The 100th anniversary of the Boy Scout organization was celebrated at Brownsea Island in southern England Wednesday, with scouts representing more then 160 countries in attendance. The world's first experimental Boy Scout camp was held at that site in 1907.

Japan is responding cautiously to a request from India for nuclear cooperation despite the US's recent completion of an agreement to supply civilian nuclear fuel and technology to that country, a Japanese official said Wednesday. Japan's tentativeness is due to New Delhi's past refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its production of nuclear weapons. Japanese officials hinted that they might be willing to share technology with India to make its industry more energy efficient and reduce its emission of greenhouse gases.

Iraq's largest Sunni-Arab political bloc, the Accordance Front, announced its withdrawal from the government Wednesday, undermining efforts to seek reconciliation among the country's rival factions. The decision to pull out followed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's failure to respond to the Front's demands for the pardoning of security detainees not charged with specific crimes and the disbanding of militias. The Accordance Front has 44 of parliament's 275 seats.

Stockholm introduced a congestion charge of 10 to 20 Swedish kronor ($1.50-$3.00) for vehicles on Wednesday, after a 7-month trial showed a 9-14 percent decrease in pollution. The money will be used to improve the city's road network.

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