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N. Korea Wants Early Six-Party Nuclear Talks

North Korea said Monday it wanted an early resumption of six-party nuclear negotiations following "constructive" talks with the United States last week.

The North "remains unchanged in its stand to resume the six-party talks without preconditions at an early date" and comprehensively implement a September 2005 denuclearization deal, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

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Austria May Contribute Troops to UNIFIL

Austria said Saturday it could send peacekeeping troops to Lebanon by the end of the year, as part of the UNIFIL mission here, following a request by New York.

"The (Austrian) army has built up expertise and experience in the region. A second pillar in the Middle East, on top of the Golan mission, is definitely conceivable," Defense Minister Norbert Darabos said in a statement.

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Barak, Ban Discuss Situation in West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon

Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon discussed the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the situation in the West Bank and Gaza, in Lebanon and the region, said a U.N. spokesman.

"The secretary general urged an early resumption of meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations," Spokesman Martin Nesirky said Friday.

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Roadside Bomb Kills 18 in Southern Afghanistan

A minibus ran over a roadside bomb Friday in southern Afghanistan, killing all 18 passengers, police said.

"The mine was very powerful and destroyed the vehicle," said Kamaluddin Sherzai, deputy police chief in the southern Helmand province. "They were all civilians. Some were children."

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Ministries, Parliament Speeding up Efforts to Set Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone

Several ministries and a parliamentary committee are holding intense talks to prepare a draft-law that sets Lebanon’s Exclusive Economic Zone but the decree is not likely to be completed by August 2 during a session of the cabinet, An Nahar daily reported Friday.

It said the meetings are being held between the representatives of the foreign, energy and economy ministries and parliament’s energy and hydraulics committee.

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Connelly Suggested that Lebanon Drills Oil in Territorial Waters Pending Resolution of Conflict

U.S. Ambassador Maura Connelly has reportedly asked Speaker Nabih Berri why Lebanon would not strike deals with companies to start oil exploration in its territorial waters as Israel did pending a solution to its conflict with the Jewish state on the Exclusive Economic Zone.

Media reports quoted Berri as answering Connelly that the maritime border line between Lebanon and Israel should be drawn. “If someone is seeking or working to reach a peace agreement between Lebanon and Israel to settle the oil issue, then this didn’t and won’t happen.”

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U.N. Pays Out $1 Billion from Iraqi Oil Fund

A U.N. panel has approved more than $1 billion in compensation payments for victims of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

The U.N. Compensation Commission says the money will go to five companies and four government or international bodies. It did not disclose the identities of the claimants Thursday but said all are in Kuwait.

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Israel: UNIFIL Bombing a Message to Scale Back Operations Against Hizbullah

Israeli defense officials have said that the latest attack on UNIFIL stems from Hizbullah's fear that the U.N. peacekeeping force will seek greater freedom to search Lebanese villages for weapons without a previous coordination with the Lebanese army.

The bombing of the UNIFIL convoy near the southern port city of Sidon on Tuesday was likely aimed at sending a message to the peacekeepers to scale back their operations against Hizbullah, The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli defense officials as saying.

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Abbas Determined to Ask ‘Security Council for U.N. Membership’

The Palestinians will in September approach the U.N. Security Council to seek full membership in the global body, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Wednesday.

"We are going to the Security Council through a request to the secretary general of the United Nations to seek full membership in the U.N. and recognition of Palestine on the 1967 borders," he said.

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Revolutionary Guards Commander Nominated for Iran Oil Ministry

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday nominated a Revolutionary Guards commander targeted by international sanctions, Rostam Qasemi, to head the strategic oil ministry, reports said.

Brigadier General Qasemi heads the sanctions-hit industrial wing of the elite Guards, Khatam al-Anbiya, which is massively present in the Islamic republic's oil sector.

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