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North Korea "will make efforts" to "denuclearize" in keeping with the final wish of its late founder, the government's No. 2 leader pledged Thursday. Kim Yong Nam's declaration, in the highest-level contacts between North and South Korea in seven months, appeared to be another in a series of developments that are easing tensions on the divided peninsula. But the two sides still were well apart on the issues of humanitarian aid and expanded reunions for families divided by the 1950-53 war. Talks between the US and North Korea on normalizing relations are scheduled for next week.

Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran is due in rival Saudi Arabia as soon as Saturday for high-profile discussions on how to defuse conflicts between Shiite and Sunni Muslims around the Middle East – especially in Iraq and Lebanon. Saudi leaders say they want Iran, which backs Hizbullah in Lebanon and militant Shiites in Iraq, to take a more neutral stance before such tensions explode out of control.

The first British soldiers to be withdrawn from Iraq will leave for home by the end of May, the Army's chief of staff said. Gen. Richard Dannatt offered no details other than to say, "We are following the plans that our government laid down" last week, when Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the recall of 1,600 of the 7,100 Britons deployed there. The government also said its remaining 630 troops with the European Union peacekeeping mission in Bosnia will return home.

Thirty-five Army officers from Uganda stepped off a cargo plane in Somalia Thursday, becoming the first contingent of African Union (AU) peacekeepers to arrive in the fractious nation. But their spokesman wouldn't say when the remaining soldiers in Uganda's 1,500-man deployment would arrive, since Islamist militiamen have threatened them with attack. In all, the AU mission is planned to consist of 8,000 peacekeepers.


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