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AFGHANISTAN: No decline in Taliban attacks

The U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan backed off Tuesday from its claim that Taliban attacks dropped off in 2012, tacitly acknowledging a hole in its widely repeated argument that the insurgency is in decline. In response to Associated Press inquiries about its latest statistics on security, the coalition command in Kabul said it had erred in reporting a 7 percent decline in attacks. In fact, there was no decline, officials said. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was disturbed to learn of the error, said his spokesman, George Little.

KAZAKHSTAN: Iran nuke talks begin

Six world powers floated a modestly improved proposal to Iranian negotiators Tuesday, as talks on Tehran's disputed nuclear program resumed in Almaty after an eight-month hiatus and with few expectations of a breakthrough. Opening a two-day session, the so-called Five Plus One group offered to slightly ease economic sanctions if Tehran will halt production of near-weapons grade uranium fuel. The powers -- China, Russia, France, Britain, Germany and the United States -- fear Iran may be seeking the ability to make bombs, an intent it denies.

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NIGER: Docs accused of embezzling

About 20 doctors suspected of embezzling funds from a charity set up by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote vaccination in poor countries have been arrested, judicial and police sources said. Niger's government has made tackling corruption a priority since taking office in 2011, and last year President Mahamadou Issoufou fired two ministers suspected of illegally awarding state contracts. The doctors' arrests came after an investigation by the GAVI Alliance, backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which centered on $1.5 million donated between 2007 and 2010.

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