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Leader backs talks with U.S., with conditions

By TIMES WIRES
Published May 17, 2007


TEHRAN, IRAN

Iran's supreme leader gave his backing Wednesday to U.S.-Iran talks about Iraq's security. But he took a tough line, insisting the meeting will deal only with fixing American policies in Iraq, not changing Iran's. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's harsh tone appeared aimed at quieting criticism by hard-liners over the planned meeting in Baghdad with the United States - and signaled that it's unlikely the talks will make progress in reducing tensions between Washington and Tehran over Iraq or about the nation's nuclear program. The Iraqi government has been seeking the talks, hoping the two sides can find a way to ease Iraq's turmoil. No date has been set yet for the ambassador-level meeting.

KATMANDU, NEPAL

17th trip to top of Everest is a record

A veteran Sherpa guide scaled Mount Everest for a record 17th time Wednesday, beating his own record, officials said. Apa, who goes by one name, reached the 29, 035-foot summit with seven other Sherpas and a Western climber, said Ang Tshering, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association. Apa, 46, is one of the most respected climbers in the mountaineering community. His closest competitor - fellow Sherpa guide Chewang Nima, 41 - scaled the peak a 14th time last year.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

Trains are late, commuters riot

Argentina's president on Wednesday threatened to crack down on private rail operators for failing to make upgrades after frustration over poor service boiled over into a riot at a major commuter station. Commuters - 300, 000 people ride the trains a day -enraged by constant delays in train service to Buenos Aires' poor suburbs set fire Tuesday evening to parts of the capital's station, looted nearby shops and clashed with riot police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.

AFRICA

Economy judged best in decades

Africa is in its best economic shape in decades thanks to better management and a booming demand for commodities, the president of the African Development Bank said Wednesday. Donald Kaberuka said the region's economies last year grew at an average of 5.5 percent as a result of improved peace and stability, better terms of trade, more responsible economic governance and a better business climate.

Elsewhere

Pet food: China says checks on food exporters have turned up no sign of a wheat gluten, a chemical blamed for the deaths of cats and dogs in North America. It urged U.S. authorities to refrain from further action against Chinese producers following a U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspection of producers.

Christians fearful: Christians in a Pakistani town beset by pro-Taliban militants sought government protection Wednesday, the eve of a deadline for them to convert to Islam or face violence. About 500 Pakistani Christians in Charsadda, in the frontier province bordering Afghanistan, received letters this month telling them to close their churches and convert by today or be the target of "bomb explosions."