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Three Die in Afghan Helicopter Crash

Three people died when a civilian helicopter contracted to NATO forces crashed in flames in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province on Monday, officials said.

The aircraft had "gone down due to mechanical problems," said Daud Ahmedi, a spokesman for the provincial government.

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Medvedev Submits Reform Bill after Protests

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday submitted a bill to parliament that would reinstate the direct election of regional governors following mass protests calling for reform.

Under the bill, Russian citizens would elect their regional leaders running independently or on a party ticket for a term of five years, the Kremlin said in a statement.

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U.S. Team in S. Korea for Talks on Iran Sanctions

A U.S. delegation arrived in South Korea Monday for talks on implementing new sanctions against Iran's oil exports, amid mounting concerns over Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons drive, a report said.

The delegation led by Robert Einhorn, the State Department's special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control, will stay for three days in South Korea, a significant importer of Iranian crude.

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AP Formally Opens News Bureau in North Korea

The Associated Press opened its newest bureau in North Korea on Monday, becoming the first international news organization with a full-time presence to cover news in words, pictures and video.

In a ceremony that came less than a month after the death of longtime ruler Kim Jong Il and capped nearly a year of discussions, AP President and CEO Tom Curley and a delegation of top AP editors inaugurated the office, situated inside the headquarters of the state-run Korean Central News Agency in downtown Pyongyang.

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Pakistan Court Rules PM in Contempt, Ordered to Appear this Week

Pakistan's top court on Monday found Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in contempt for not complying with orders related to re-opening corruption cases and summoned him to appear in person this week.

The move escalates the pressure on Pakistan's weakened civilian government, which faces separate court procedures that could unseat its leadership and force early elections at a time of soaring tensions with the powerful army.

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Italy Cruise Ship Owner Blames Captain as Death Toll Hits 6

The owner of the luxury liner that ran aground off the coast of Italy, killing at least six people, said its captain had made "errors of judgment" as the search continued for the missing.

Rescuers desperately working through the night found the body of a man in the wreckage of the Costa Concordia early Monday, taking the death toll from the disaster to six, the ANSA news agency reported.

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Nigeria Cuts Petrol Prices, Soldiers Seize Protest Site

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan announced Monday a cut in petrol prices in a bid to end a nationwide strike now in its second week, as soldiers seized the main protest site in Lagos.

Jonathan made the announcement in a televised national address after a week that saw him remain largely silent in public as the strike and mass protests shut down Africa's most populous nation and largest oil producer.

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Iran Confirms Receiving Letter from U.S. on Strait of Hormuz

The United States has sent a letter to Iran regarding its threatened closure of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Sunday, without revealing the letter's contents.

"The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, sent a letter to Mohammad Khazaie, Iran's U.N. representative, which was conveyed by the Swiss ambassador, and finally Iraqi President Jalal Talabani delivered its contents to officials" in Iran, the official IRNA news agency quoted Ramin Mehmanparast as saying.

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Blast Hits Shiite Procession Killing 16

A blast hit a Shiite Muslim religious procession killing 16 people and wounding 20 others in central Pakistan on Sunday, police said, amid conflicting reasons for the explosion.

It may have been a bomb or as a result of an electrical explosion, police said in Punjab province, but Shiites have often been targeted in Pakistan before.

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Two Koreans, Italian Rescued from Italy Cruise Disaster

Two South Korean honeymooners and an Italian man were rescued Sunday from a cruise ship wreck on an Italian island as emergency crews searched frantically for dozens more missing.

Rescuers said the painstaking search in the half-submerged ship was a dangerous operation because the decks were at almost a 90-degree angle and there was a danger that the ship could slip off the rocks it had struck and sink altogether.

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