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Search Efforts Fail to Find Kidnapped Europeans in Philippines

Philippine authorities said Thursday they had failed to find two European birdwatchers in the crucial 24 hours after their abduction and warned Islamic militants may be holding them.

Hundreds of Marines quickly joined the search for Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerra, 47, and Dutchman Ewold Horn, 52, who were seized by armed men on a tiny island in the lawless south of the country on Wednesday.

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Pakistan Will do Whatever Kabul Wants for Peace

Pakistan is willing to do whatever the Afghans want to help facilitate an end to 10 years of war with the Taliban, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters on Thursday.

Speaking a day after talks with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul billed as a fence-mending visit designed to ease frosty ties, Pakistan's top diplomat sought to refute perceptions that Islamabad was an obstacle to peace.

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Philippine Army Kills 3 Top Regional Islamic Militants

The Philippine army said it killed three senior leaders from the al-Qaida linked Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah militant organizations in an air raid on a remote southern island on Thursday.

The three were among 15 militants killed on Jolo, a jungle-infested island where Abu Sayyaf members are suspected to be holding kidnapped foreigners, regional military commander Major General Noel Coballes told Agence France Presse by phone.

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Papua New Guinea Ferry Sinks, Hundreds Rescued

More than 200 people were plucked from waters off Papua New Guinea Thursday after a ferry sank but many others remained missing, with rescuers scouring the area for survivors as night fell.

Operator Star Ships said it lost contact with the MV Rabaul Queen at about 6am on Thursday (2000 GMT Wednesday) while it was travelling between Kimbe and Lae in the east of the Pacific nation, blaming "bad weather" for the disaster.

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IAEA Sets Date for New Nuclear Talks in Tehran

The U.N. atomic watchdog IAEA said Wednesday it would hold new talks in Tehran this month, as its chief inspector returned from Iran warning there was "still a lot of work to do" on its nuclear program.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement that another meeting would take place in Tehran from February 21 to 22, adding that it was committed to "intensifying dialogue".

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Sarkozy to Redraft Armenian Genocide Bill if Rejected

President Nicolas Sarkozy will immediately submit a new draft of a law punishing denial of the Armenian genocide if France's top judicial body rejects it, two ministers told Agence France Presse Wednesday.

"The president told us in cabinet that he would immediately submit a new draft if there is a rejection by the Constitutional Council" of a bill approved recently by the French parliament, said one of the ministers, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Anthrax Parcel Sent to Pakistan PM's House

Pakistani police said Wednesday they were investigating how and why a parcel containing anthrax was sent to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s official residence in the capital Islamabad last month.

It appeared to be the first reported case of anthrax sent to a government office in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country of 174 million that is battling a Taliban insurgency and where al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden was shot dead.

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Putin Does Not Rule Out Poll Run-Off

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin refused to rule out on Wednesday a run-off in March presidential polls where he will seek a third Kremlin term but warned a second round risked causing instability.

"I understand that a second round run-off is possible, according to the current legislation," Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying at a meeting with Russian election observers.

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8 Dead, 5 Missing in Boat Accident off Malaysia

Eight men have drowned and five others are missing after a boat loaded with 25 people believed to be from Afghanistan and Iraq overturned off southern Malaysia, police said Wednesday.

Police found the bodies of eight men on a beach in southern Johor state early Wednesday, said Che Mahazan Che Aik, a district police chief, while 12 others managed to swim to shore after their boat overturned.

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IAEA Chief Inspector Says Still 'Work to Do' with Iran

The chief U.N. nuclear inspector said Wednesday that there was "still a lot of work to do" with Iran over its contested atomic program, after returning from a three-day trip to Tehran.

"We had three days of intensive discussions about all our priorities. We are committed to resolving all the outstanding issues and the Iranians said they are committed too," Herman Nackaerts told reporters at Vienna airport.

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