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By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn / July 30, 2008



Iraqi and US troops began a new sweep Tuesday to rid troubled Diyala Province of Al Qaeda elements. The area north of Baghdad is considered the last important haven for terrorists near the capital and thus one of the most difficult to control because, among other factors, it borders Iran. Iraqi forces are leading the campaign, a senior US commander said, because they are better prepared now than for previous operations.

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"Big powers," such as the US, "are going down," Iran's hard-line president said in the keynote speech to the Nonaligned Movement conference in Tehran Tuesday. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad complained that "rich and powerful countries" exercise an inordinate influence on global affairs but suggested that "a new, promising era" is just ahead. In an interview with NBC News Monday night, Ahmadinejad said Iran would respond positively if the US adopts a genuinely new approach to his country. Dismissing American concerns about Iran's nuclear program, he added: "Nuclear bombs belong to the 20th century [whereas] we are living in a new century."

One soldier was killed, Indian Army spokesmen said Tuesday, in 16 hours of cross-border fighting with Pakistani troops along the Line of Control in Kashmir. They accused the Pakistanis of "very serious" violations of the five-year-old cease-fire in the disputed region, although the clash reportedly involved no heavy weapons. A Pakistani spokesman said he had no information on the battle and could not confirm claims that four of his side's soldiers also had died. Senior officers from both armies agreed to a conference on the matter "after some time."

Rules requiring the detention of all asylum-seekers are being scrapped, Australia's Labor government announced. It said the policy, a favorite target of human rights activists, had done "enormous damage" to the nation's image and no longer was acceptable. In recent years, Australia has been the destination of choice for refugees from impoverished or war-torn countries, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, but the application process for asylum is complicated and time-consuming. The detention policy dates back to the last previous Labor government.

Just four days before his coronation as Tonga's new ruler, King George Tupou V, said he'll surrender much of his power to elected legislators. The South Pacific island is one of the few remaining nations in which a monarch involves himself in the daily operations of government. For years, its monarchy has promised political reforms, but slow progress on that front has led to growing dissatisfaction. In 2006, a rally for democracy turned violent, and eight people died.

Two manned research submarines reached the bed of Lake Baikal in Siberia Tuesday, setting a world record for the deepest descent in fresh water, Russian news agencies reported. At 5,512 feet, Baikal is more than a mile deep. The submersibles, Mir-1 and Mir-2, also have set depth records for exploration beneath the North Pole.

A 2-1/2-square-mile chunk of ice – the largest in three years – has broken off Canada's Ward Hunt Shelf, the Toronto Globe and Mail reported. Scientists said the split occurred Wed-nesday or Thursday of last week, calling it "the latest indication that climate change is forcing a drastic reshaping of the Arctic coastline." Forecasters predicted the chunk would float in Arctic currents "for some time" and pose no "imminent danger" to shipping. In 2005, Canada's entire 41-square-mile Ayles Ice Shelf broke loose.

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