Bombings kill 18; offensive launched

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A string of four apparently coordinated bombings in seven minutes Tuesday killed 18 people in northern Iraq, ending a relative lull in violence, and a television station aired a video showing gunmen threatening to kill a Turkish hostage.

Hundreds of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers descended on the remote northern city of Tal Afar near the Syrian border, launching a major operation against insurgents, military officials said.

A Sunni politician, meanwhile, claimed two insurgent groups were ready to open talks with the government and eventually join the political process.

Blair seeks Bush's support in Africa, global warming

WASHINGTON - A U.S. commitment to providing $674 million for famine relief in Africa may take some of the sting out of President Bush's opposition to a proposal by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to spend even more money.

However, the other issue topping Blair foreign policy this year - fighting global warming - may further strain his relationship with Bush. Blair has made the issues the twin focus of Britain's yearlong chairmanship of the G-8 group of wealthy nations, yet Bush has rejected many of his close ally's ideas on Africa and the environment.

Bush welcomed Blair to Washington on Tuesday, their first meeting since Blair won a third term in office and his Labour Party suffered heavy losses in Parliament, largely because of unhappiness about his support for the Iraq war.

Bolivia police clash with demonstrators

LA PAZ, Bolivia - Riot police fired tear gas and clashed with protesters Tuesday demanding more power for Bolivia's impoverished Indian majority as an offer by the president to resign failed to halt a crippling blockade in the Bolivian capital.

Police dragged miners from the yellow dump trucks in which they had converged on the city, beating some of the protesters.

No injuries were immediately reported.

North Korea says it's willing to return to nuclear negotiations

WASHINGTON - North Korea has informed the United States it is willing to resume six-party negotiations on its nuclear weapons program, but did not fix a date for reopening the long-stalled talks, the Bush administration said Tuesday.

Meeting with American diplomats Monday at the North Korean mission to the United Nations in New York ''the North Koreans said they would return but did not

give us a time,'' said State Department spokesman Sean


Two charged in girl's disappearance lost jobs at nearby hotel

ORANJESTAD, Aruba - Two men charged in Natalee Holloway's disappearance lost their jobs as security guards at a hotel near the one in which the Alabama teenager was staying the day before she vanished, a police officer said.

Police and FBI agents continued to comb the island, and volunteers distributed fliers on the missing girl Tuesday, one day after a massive effort by volunteers on the southeastern tip of the island failed to yield any leads.

Academies call for greenhouse gas cuts

LONDON - The U.S. National Academy of Sciences joined similar groups from other nations Tuesday in a call for prompt action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, warning that delays will be costly.

The statement was released as British Prime Minister Tony Blair was meeting with President Bush in Washington.

Blair has made action on climate change a priority for the July G-8 summit. Bush opposes the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, and his administration questions scientists' views that man-made pollutants are causing temperatures to rise.

Nepalese rebels apologize for deadly civilian bus bombing

KATMANDU, Nepal - Communist rebels apologized Tuesday for making a ''grave mistake'' by bombing a

civilian bus in an attack that killed 38 people and injured 71, saying they were targeting government security forces.

The leader of the rebels said the fighters involved in Monday's attack and the local leadership had been suspended from the group.

Serb paramilitary unit was part of Milosevic's police

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro - Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's police directly controlled a notorious Serb armed unit known as the Scorpions and gave them a license to kill in Bosnia and Kosovo, a police document showed Tuesday.

The unit was one of the several Serbian paramilitary contingents that spread fear and conducted massive ethnic cleansing operations against non-Serbs during the Balkans wars in the 1990s, prominent military analyst Dejan Anastasijevic said.

- From wire reports