World

After years of icy relations with the US over the Iraq war, France's foreign minister arrived in Baghdad Sunday for a fact-finding visit. Bernard Koucher also will express "solidarity" with the Iraqi people, a spokesman said. His trip was seen as an effort by new President Nicolas Sarkozy's government to end French bitterness over the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

Negotiations for release of 19 remaining Korean hostages in Afghanistan "ended without any result," the Taliban said Saturday, and its leaders were considering their next move. The organization has threatened to execute the Koreans unless the Afghan government frees Taliban prisoners, a demand that President Hamid Karzai has rejected. Meanwhile, a German aid worker was shown on TV pleading for the release of prisoners after she was kidnapped at dinner in a Kabul restaurant. But police said the Taliban were not behind her capture.

Electricity was to be cut to all of Jamaica, and businesses were ordered to close until Tuesday as hurricane Dean bore down on the island with winds of 145 m.p.h. It appeared on a track that would take it over the Cayman Islands and Mexico's Yucat√°n Peninsula, causing tourists across the region to crowd airports for flights home.

Next week's summit between the leaders of North and South Korea was postponed at the former's request. North Korea's official news agency said the delay, until Oct. 2-4, was "unavoidable" due to severe flooding that has made recovery a top priority. North Korea already was unable to feed its population without outside aid, and another 11 percent of its rice and corn crop was lost in the flooding, officials said.

Exit polls showed 68 percent approval by voters in Thailand for the new Constitution drafted by the military-backed government. The size of the turnout in Sunday's referendum wasn't immediately clear, however. Ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had urged a "no" vote.Thenew charter is aimed at preventing a repeat of the single-party government that the Army overthrew last year. Thaksin's successor, Surayud Chulanont, said the outcome of the referendum meant an election for a new government "will definitely be held at the end of the year."

No public pressure was exerted on President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as his counterparts in neighboring countries ended a regional summit over the weekend.Although Zimbabwe's economic and political woes dominated the talks, Mugabe didn't attend the final session, and the closing statement made only a brief reference to the turmoil.Western nations, led by the US, had called on the summit to "press vigorously" for an end to the "man-made crisis."

Opposition leaders warned that Kazakhstan was headed "back to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union" after preliminary results from Saturday's election gave President Nursultan Nazarbayev's Nur Otan Party 88 percent of the vote and every contested seat in parliament. A spokesman for the 400-person observer mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the election showed progress toward democracy, although numerous "international standards" were not met.

Emergency crews patched a levee and were racing to pump water from a flooded coal mine in eastern China where 181 men were trapped. The levee on the Wen River broke Friday from the rains that have pounded China for weeks. Typhoon Sepat added to the problem Sunday, collapsing a railroad station, washing out roads, and causing the evacuation of about 1 million coastal residents. It was blamed for at least 14 deaths.

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