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U.S. asking U.N. to lead Iraq talks

The Bush administration is proposing a series of U.N.-brokered talks in Baghdad between the United States and Iraq’s neighbors in an effort to rally support for the beleaguered Iraqi government.

The initiative, outlined in an interview with Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, comes as American diplomats have struggled to gain regional backing for U.S. policies in Iraq. After a high-profile trip to the Middle East last week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates yielded few results, the administration is turning to the United Nations to help enlist Iraq’s most influential neighbors, including Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, in stabilizing the country.

The evolving U.S. strategy is modeled on the approach used several years ago to build a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan.

With backing from Washington, the United Nations shored up support from Afghanistan’s most powerful neighbors, including Iran and Pakistan.

The move comes as the U.N. Security Council prepares for a vote today on a resolution expanding the United Nations’ mediation role in Iraq.

Papeete, Tahiti

Plane crashes into sea, killing 14

A small airplane crashed into the sea after taking off from the French Polynesian resort island of Moorea, killing at least 14 people, officials said today.

The Tahiti-bound Twin Otter DHC6 turboprop, carrying 19 passengers and a pilot, crashed shortly after takeoff Thursday, Air Moorea said in a statement. The cause of the crash was unclear.

Moorea is 10 miles from Tahiti, a South Pacific tourist destination halfway between Sydney and Los Angeles. The plane carried out regular seven-minute flights between the islands for Air Moorea.

France’s high commission on Tahiti said 14 bodies had been recovered. The local civil aviation authority said no survivors had been found so far. Witnesses said fishermen joined in the rescue effort.

Most of the tourists on board had French nationality, though three were foreigners, said Dominique Bayon, spokeswoman for the high commission, which represents the French state in French Polynesia.

Islamabad, Pakistan

Emergency status not invoked

President Pervez Musharraf backed off Thursday from imposing a national state of emergency after TV news reports of such a plan triggered condemnation across Pakistan and expressions of concern from the Bush administration.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, returning from a peace conference in Afghanistan, told reporters that he had met with Musharraf and that there was no likelihood of an emergency being imposed at this time.

He said the country would hold national elections on schedule by mid-October.


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Zimbabwe leader calls assassination attempt ‘cowardly act’

UPDATED: 8:14 p.m.

Zimbabwe’s president was unscathed Saturday by an explosion at a campaign rally that state media called an attempt to assassinate him, later visiting his two injured vice presidents and declaring the “cowardly act” will not disrupt next month’s historic elections.