Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's cabinet OK'd and sent to parliament a measure that would strike down the immunity of private security providers from prosecution. The immunity of foreign operators such as Blackwater USA has become one of the most serious disputes between the two countries since the Sept. 11 shooting deaths of 17 civilians by security guards in Baghdad.

North Korea will accept half of the energy aid it has been promised in the form of "other materials," a senior negotiator from rival South Korea said Tuesday. Much of that will be in the form of steel to renovate outdated conventional power plants, he said. In return for dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear reactor by year's end, the North was to receive 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil.

Acting on an appeal by human rights groups, Israel's attorney general blocked plans to cut the flow of electricity to the Gaza Strip. But the order is temporary, and the government has until Thursday to respond. The complainants argue that the cut represents "collective punishment." Israel officially regards Gaza as a "hostile entity" because of almost daily rocket barrages fired from there. It already has reduced supplies of fuel to Gaza.

In the first indication that they might scuttle the US-sponsored peace conference next month, senior Palestinian officials said Tuesday there can be no talks without a deadline for establishing a state in Gaza and the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has resisted the idea of a timetable for Palestinian statehood.

In a blunt new warning to businesses in Zimbabwe, the government said Tuesday it will require proof of their import costs before they're permitted to put prices on the goods they sell. Violations will be punished with "the full wrath of the law," the National Incomes and Pricing Commission said. The policy, seen as the latest move to counter the world's highest inflation rate, is aimed at forcing compliance with the official exchange rate. Under that rate, 30,000 Zimbabwean dollars equal one US dollar. But on the black market, the rate is 30 times greater.

Six more employees of a foreign oil company were freed by their kidnappers in Nigeria's delta region, with no ransom payment, police said. The workers, all Polish and Indian nationals, were seized at gunpoint last Friday in an incident that wounded a Nigerian colleague. The Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for the raid, bringing to more than 150 the number of foreigners kidnapped this year as it leads a campaign for local control of oil revenues.

Tropical storm Noel appeared to catch Dominican Republic residents off guard, knocking out electricity to the entire country Monday. At least 40 people were killed or listed as missing because of flooding and mud slides. The system had been predicted to hit Haiti hardest. Instead, it veered eastward across Hispanola and was drenching Cuba Tuesday. Above, a Haitian boy needs help crossing a flooded river near the Dominican border.

A vast area of the Arctic seabed is an extension of Siberia, and Russia will file a claim to its mineral wealth with the UN by year's end, Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev said. In a newspaper interview published Tuesday, he said, "We will fight for Russia's right to this plot" in competition with Canada, the US, Norway, and Denmark. In August, a Russian expedition beneath the North Pole planted the national flag, symbolically staking the claim. The Law of the Sea Treaty requires such submissions to the UN.

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