World

Negotiating teams on some issues blocking Israeli-Palestinian peace will be formed by both sides, their leaders agreed Monday. In a three-hour meeting at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's offices in Jerusalem, he and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided that the teams would discuss economic issues, water rights, energy policy, and the environment. But no mention was made of thornier questions such as the borders of a Palestinian state or the so-called right of return of displaced Palestinians. Olmert also offered to free more of the estimated 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails before Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. In November, the two sides are expected to join a conference sought by President Bush on reenergizing peace talks.

All but three of the 13 members of a team who were seized on a UN mission to clear land mines in eastern Afghanistan were freed Monday, their employer confirmed. Negotiations for the release of the remaining men were under way, reports said. The Taliban denied responsibility for the kidnapping. In another development, the militants said they'd "consider" negotiations with President Hamid Karzai, who repeated a call for such talks Sunday. But a Taliban spokesman said no offer had been received.

Explosives experts defused a 180-pound car bomb in northern Spain after ETA, the Basque separatist organization, telephoned a warning to a local newspaper Sunday night. The device had been planted outside a Defense Ministry building in Logorno, but only its detonator went off. Hours earlier, ETA vowed to continue its campaign of violence until self-determination for the Basque region had been achieved.

Police and supporters of the ruling junta in Burma (Myanmar) were deployed at Buddhist monasteries in key cities Monday and TV programming was interrupted with stern warnings against continued protests over the recent increase in fuel prices. The junta suggested that Western embassies – chiefly that of the US – were behind the protests, which grew violent last week when monks retaliated for beatings by junta supporters by smashing a residence and a shop owned by one of them.

Ten percent ownership – worth $2.5 billion – in petrochemical giant SASOL Ltd. will be sold to black investors, the South African company said Monday. The strategy, to be implemented next year, will represent the largest black economic empowerment deal there since the fall of apartheid. SASOL is the world's No. 1 producer of motor fuels from coal.

Time magazine lost a libel suit filed by former Indonesian dictator Suharto and was ordered to pay him $106 million in damages. The judgement, overruling two lower-court decisions, was issued Monday by the Supreme Court in Jakarta. Time's Asian edition alleged in a 1999 report that during his 32 years in power Suharto and his family amassed a fortune worth billions of dollars from Indonesian industries, stashing much of it in European banks.

A Nov. 4 runoff election for president in Guatemala loomed after voters gave neither businessman Alvaro Colom nor ex-Army Gen. Otto Perez Molina a majority Sunday. With ballot-counting nearing completion, Colom held a 28 to 24 percent lead. Mayan rights activist and 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu was far behind in third place.

A truck carrying explosives for mining operations caught fire and then blew up in northern Mexico late Sunday, killing at least 34 people. More than 150 others were hurt in the accident, which followed a collision with a second vehicle on a highway in Coahuila State. Among the dead were reporters who'd rushed to the scene.

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