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World

July 25, 2008



More years of delay appeared likely in progress toward a global trade agreement, as negotiations in Geneva were in danger of collapsing before their scheduled adjournment on Saturday. Delegates from wealthy and poor countries were trying to narrow their differences at World Trade Organization headquarters, but reportedly were at a standoff over who should make the next move. The latter complained that offers by the US and EU to cut their agricultural subsidies and tariffs didn't pass the "laugh test."

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Suspected Islamic separatists were blamed for attacks that killed nine more people Thursday in Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state. Five of the victims died when a hand grenade exploded among migrant laborers buying bus tickets for trips home. To try to prevent further violence, the state government clamped a curfew on the city of Jammu, where Hindu activists were trying to organize a major strike. More than 68,000 people have died in Muslim-Hindu violence in Kashmir, dating back to 1989.

Hopes grew for an early resolution of the heated border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia after their prime ministers agreed that negotiations should resume Monday. They will take place at the foreign minister level in Cambodia; a previous round in Thailand ended in failure. Cambodia agreed to delay its request for an emergency UN Security Council meeting on the issue.

Ambassadors from Serbia to member states of the European Union (EU) will return to their posts as soon as next week, the government said Thursday. The announcement was seen as Serbia's second goodwill gesture in less than a week, following the arrest of long-sought war crimes fugitive Radovan Karadzic. Despite its bid for EU membership, Serbia withdrew the diplomats from countries that officially recognized the declaration of independence by Kosovo.

A strongly worded denial was issued by Venezuela's government that President Hugo Chávez had invited Russia to open a military base in his country. A report to that effect was circulated by the Russian Interfax news agency. Chávez, who says the US is threatening Venezuelan sovereignty, has been in Russia this week, negotiating weapons-buying and trade deals. At the same time, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro said his brother and successor, Raul Castro, owed no apology for reports that Russia might base nuclear-armed bombers there if the US builds an antimissile shield in Eastern Europe.

Handing President Nicolas Sarkozy a key legislative victory Wednesday night, France's parliament passed his bill to end the mandatory 35-hour work week. The measure, a Sarkozy campaign pledge, allows employers to negotiate additional time with their staffs beyond the 35 hours per week that critics say has damaged French competitiveness. The bill does not, however, eliminate the shorter work week for those who still want it.

Another powerful earthquake jolted northern Japan minutes after midnight Wednesday, injuring more than 130 people and stranding others aboard overnight trains. But the magnitude-6.8 quake reportedly caused no fatalities or major damage, and nuclear power companies with plants in the region said their operations were unaffected. A June 14 quake in northern Japan killed at least 12 people.

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