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Not one difference has been narrowed, and the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program again are stalemated, US negotiator Christopher Hill said. He described his own discussions with the North's representatives Wednesday as "difficult." The latest round has focused on rules for verifying the declaration of activities that North Korea belatedly submitted last June.

"Significant progress" in improving security in southern Iraq will make the withdrawal of almost all remaining British forces possible early next year, the defense ministry said Wednesday. But it would not confirm published reports that most of the remaining 4,100 troops would return starting in March. The British mission has not been popular at home, and analysts said the pullout could improve embattled Prime Minister Gordon Brown's election prospects.

Citing "the unprecedented severity of the global economic downturn," mining industry giant Rio Tinto said it will eliminate 14,000 jobs by the end of next year. It also will try to sell unspecified "significant assets." The moves are aimed at trimming debt by $6.6 billion by the end of next year. The company, based in London, fended off a prolonged hostile takeover bid only last month by larger rival BHP Billiton.

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