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PAKISTAN: Role in talks with Taliban

Pakistan will play a major role in peace talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday, apparently trying to dismiss speculation that Kabul was trying to sideline Islamabad, once a close ally of the militants. Karzai recently made a renewed push to jump-start peace talks with the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan until late 2001 and since then has led a bloody insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul. Pakistan has offered to help negotiate with the militants. But many observers believe Afghanistan wants to keep Pakistan out of any talks, suspicious of Islamabad's support of the Taliban government while the militants were in power. Karzai tried to dispel that speculation during a joint news conference with in Islamabad with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

IRAQ: Journalist and husband slain

U.S. troops opened fire on a car in western Baghdad, killing an Iraqi journalist and her husband, a police official said Thursday. Morgue officials confirmed the deaths and said the bodies of Aseel al-Obeidi and her husband were riddled with bullets in Wednesday's shooting in the Tobchi neighborhood. Al-Obeidi worked for Dijla television, an independent station that closed recently because of financial problems. The U.S. military said it was investigating the killing of two Iraqis during a joint patrol by American and Iraqi troops, but it did not give any details or confirm whether that was the same shooting that involved the journalist and her husband.

ITALY: Condom vendors in school

The decision by a Rome high school to install condom vending machines has set off a storm in Italy, with the Catholic Church charging the move will encourage young people to have sex and Rome's mayor saying it sends the wrong message. But the Keplero high school vowed yesterday to go ahead with its experiment, billed as the first in the capital. While it's a relative novelty for Italy, schools in several other European countries have installed the machines in hopes of curbing teen pregnancy and HIV.

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