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AFGHANISTAN: Karzai aide criticizes allied effort

A day after 14 Afghan police and soldiers were killed in two attacks by insurgents, President Hamid Karzai's spokesman said Monday that the West has not provided Afghan security forces with adequate weaponry. Waheed Omer also offered veiled criticism of President Barack Obama's assessment of the war effort. Omer cited continuing friction over civilian casualties, Karzai's wish to disband the Afghan operations of private security companies and potential disagreements over a plan to settle with the Taliban.

IRAQ: Cabinet named by al-Maliki

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki submitted his new cabinet Monday, clearing a hurdle to seating a government more than nine months after national elections. Nearly one-third of the nominees were only acting ministers, an attempt to buy time to work out disagreements with the hardline Shia faction loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Parliament was expected to vote on the list of 42 ministers and other posts as early as Tuesday.

THE KOREAS: North backs off despite drills

North Korea backed off threats to retaliate against South Korea for military drills and reportedly offered concessions on its nuclear program, signs it was looking to lower the temperature on the peninsula after weeks of soaring tensions. The North's gestures Monday came after South Korea launched fighter jets, evacuated its tense land border with the North of hundreds of residents and sent residents near disputed waters into underground bunkers in case Pyongyang followed through on its vow to attack.

IVORY COAST: UN defies leader who won't quit

The UN Security Council extended its peacekeeping mission Monday, hours after the top UN envoy in the West African country said armed men had been threatening staff in their homes. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to concede defeat in last month's election and his demand that peacekeepers leave have raised fears that UN personnel and other foreigners could be targeted in violence. Over the weekend, masked gunmen opened fire on the UN base there, though no one from the global body was harmed in the attack. Two military observers were wounded in another attack.

IRAN: Quake hits sparsely populated area

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck southeastern Iran late Monday, damaging some houses, but there were no reports of casualties. The Iranian state TV report said the quake hit Hosseinabad, a town of a few hundred residents in a sparsely populated region.

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