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A second round of discussions with the US on the situation in Iraq officially has been requested, Iran's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. It did not announce a date for new talks, and the State Department in Washington said no meeting has yet been scheduled. Iran and the US met at the ambassadorial level in late May in Baghdad.

North Korea has idled its entire nuclear complex at Yongbyon – not just the reactor – and is offering to declare and disable its full weapons program by year's end, diplomats and the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday. The total-disclosure offer is considered important because it implies the inclusion of uranium enrichment, a capability that the North has never admitted publicly.

Hamas reacted angrily to an announcement Wednesday by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas endorsing early elections for parliament. Abbas did not indicate when a new vote – seen as a way to end his bitter struggle for power with Hamas – might be held but said he'd issue a decree once the Palestinian Central Council decides on a date. Hamas trounced Abbas's Fatah movement in parliamentary elections in January 2006, and its spokesman said any recommendation by the council would be "illegal."

Criticism rained down on the chief of Japan's leading electric utility after further checks of its nuclear reactor at Kashiwazaki revealed that radioactive leakage due to the strong earthquake earlier this week was 50 percent worse than first estimated. Tsunehisa Katsumata apologized for "the worry and trouble we have caused," but defended safety standards at the plant. The damaged facility was ordered to remain closed indefinitely by Kashiwazaki Mayor Hiroshi Aida. Seismologists were studying whether a fault line runs directly under the plant.


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