Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Tuesday "to tone down the rhetoric" in an effort to improve relations between their countries. Meeting in Moscow, they discussed such contentious issues as independence for Kosovo and the proposed US missile defense system that would be based in former Soviet satellites Poland and the Czech Republic. But no breakthroughs were reported on any issue, and Rice told reporters afterward that the US would not allow Russia to veto the antimissile system.

Steps are under way to transfer $25 million in North Korean funds from a bank in Macao "to our account in a third country," the Foreign Ministry said. Access to the money, which had been frozen at the request of the US, has held up North Korea's compliance with an agreement to halt its nuclear weapons program, now 5-1/2 weeks past deadline. "If" the transfer is completed, the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, "we will immediately take steps to close nuclear facilities as agreed."

In another challenge to Palestinian unity, 11 more people were killed Tuesday in the Gaza Strip in fighting between Hamas and Fatah supporters. Eight of the casualties came in an ambush against members of President Mahmoud Abbas's guard detail. Abbas called for immediate implementation of a plan in which their rival security forces would operate under joint command. Sources at the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt said up to 450 Fatah members were admitted to Gaza with Israel's consent. Fatah confirmed the account but said the men were not in Gaza to fight Hamas.

Taliban ranks took another hit in southern Afghanistan Monday night, with allied jets pounding two militant bases in Kandahar Province. The Defense Ministry said a field commander and 10 others were dead; a provincial security chief claimed 60 had been killed. The attacks came hours after the Taliban acknowledged the death of operational commander Mullah Dadullah in fighting with NATO and Afghan forces. His brother, Mullah Bakht Mohammad, will succeed him, reports said.

A terrorist exploded a bomb in a hotel lobby in Peshawar, Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan Tuesday,killing at least 25 people and wounding dozens more. The Interior Ministry said it wasn't clear whether the attack was related to the violence elsewhere in Pakistan over the suspension of the Supreme Court's chief justice. The hotel was popular with Afghan visitors. Peshawar is the capital of the North West Frontier Province, a hotbed of opposition to Pakistan's support for US counterterrorism efforts.

Three policemen were hurt and 59 people were arrested in Copenhagen, Denmark, Monday night and Tuesday as angry youths resumed rioting over the demolition of buildings in a neighborhood known for its "hippie" lifestyle. In March, police arrested almost 700 rioters protesting the eviction of squatters from a building used as ayouth center.

At least five people were killed and more than 100 others were hurt in a massive explosion at a chemical plant in Cangzhou, China, domestic news agencies reported. Property damage was heavy, and thousands of area residents had to be evacuated, the reports said. Radio Free Asia, citing eyewitnesses, put the number of dead at more than 70. The blast occurred last Friday but was not revealed until four days later.

Reuters, the 156-year-old British news agency, agreed Tuesday to be acquired by Toronto-based Thomson Corp. for $17.2 billion. If approved by shareholders and regulators, the deal will make Thomson-Reuters PLC the world's largest provider of financial news and data.

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