World

Two Christian hostages from South Korea were taken to a safe location in Afghanistan Monday after being freed by their Taliban captors. Analysts said the release to officials of the Red Cross was the first significant breakthrough in a drama that began with their seizure July 19. But 19 other colleagues remain in Taliban custody, and the latter has not dropped a demand for the freeing of 21 of its prisoners from Afghan jails.

Embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki invited senior Sunni and Kurdish political allies to emergency talks in hopes of holding his fraying government together. Reports said the main Sunni bloc, the National Concord Front, agreed to attend, despite its withdrawal from the government Aug. 1. At least one Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani, also was expected to attend. Seventeen cabinet posts either are empty or are filled by ministers who are boycotting meetings.

Stock-trading appeared to be making up for last week's sharp losses, although the European Central Bank loaned another $65 billion to its members to help ease a credit crunch caused by the US subprime mortgage market. But the loan was far lower than those provided last Thursday ($130 billion) and Friday ($83.6 billion). By midafternoon Monday, the FTSE 100 in London and the DAX in Germany, were up 145 points and 83 points, respectively. Japan's Nikkei index closed 36 points higher.

Despite its 2003 pledge to get rid of yellow cake uranium ore, Libya has yet to do so, the Daily Telegraph (London) reported Monday. The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency was to supervise the disposal after leader Muamar Khaddafi agreed to abandon his nuclear weapons program. But 200 drums worth more than $400 million remain stored at a military base, sources told the newspaper. They said Khaddafi "wants to use the uranium as a bargaining chip."

Even if it means the denial of membership in the European Union, Serbia will never give up "an inch" of disputed Kosovo Province, a senior member of the ruling Democratic Party said Monday. A new round of talks on Kosovo's future is scheduled to open Aug. 30, and mediators have suggested that partitioning it along ethnic Serbian-Albanian lines is an option. Both sides, however, have rejected that idea. Kosovo's majority Albanians insist on full independence from Serbia.

Enough soldiers and police have been pledged by African countries for the new peacekeeping mission in Darfur that none will be needed from other areas of the world, the chairman of the African Union (AU) said Monday. UN sources have said some of the peacekeepers would come from outside Africa, and European governments have pledged manpower. Darfur will be the focus of an international conference next month to be sponsored by the UN and the AU, chairman Alpha Oumar Konare said.

A new military offensive against Islamist rebels who killed 27 Philippines soldiers began Monday. But President Gloria Arroyo ordered commanders not to break a truce with two other Muslim rebel groups involved in peace talks with her government. The assault was brought on by the largest one-day loss of life in Army ranks in years when Abu Sayyaf, a group linked to Al Qaeda, ambushed the troops. Strategists say Abu Sayyaf seeks refuge in or near the strongholds of larger Muslim rebel organizations for protection against counterattack.

Members of Papua New Guinea's parliament elected elder statesman Michael Somare as prime minister for the fourth time since independence was achieved in 1975. But analysts said the outcome likely would further anger Australia, the largest donor of aid to the impoverished nation. Their governments are at odds over Papua New Guinea's role in helping an Australian sex-crimes suspect flee authorities.

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