Death toll at 450 after earthquake in Peru desert

n ICA, Peru - The death toll rose to 450 on Thursday in the magnitude-8 earthquake that devastated cities of adobe and brick in Peru's southern desert. Survivors wearing blankets against the winter cold walked like ghosts through the ruins.

Dust-covered dead were pulled out and laid in rows in the streets or beneath bloodstained sheets at damaged hospitals and morgues. Doctors struggled to help more than 1,500 injured, including hundreds who waited on cots in the open air, fearing more aftershocks would send the structures crashing down.

Iraqi political leaders forge new alliance

n BAGHDAD - Iraq's political leaders emerged Thursday from three days of crisis talks with a new alliance that seeks to save the crumbling U.S.-backed government. But the reshaped power bloc included no Sunnis and immediately raised questions about its legitimacy as a unifying force.

The political gambit came as teams in northern Iraq tallied the grim figures from the deadliest wave of suicide attacks of the war and - in a rare moment of joy since Tuesday's devastation - pulled four children alive from the rubble.

Japan swelters under heat wave

n TOKYO - Japan sizzled through its hottest day on record Thursday as a heat wave claimed at least 13 lives and threatened power supplies strained by a recent earthquake, authorities and media reports said.

The mercury hit 105.6 degrees in the western city of Tajimi and the central city of Kumagaya, breaking a previous national record of 105.4 degrees set in 1933, the Meteorological Agency said.

In the Hachioji region of Tokyo, temperatures reached 101.7 degrees, breaking the previous record of 101.3 degrees for August.

Taliban talks with S. Korean officials over fate of hostages

n GHAZNI, Afghanistan - Taliban militants held a second round of face-to-face talks with South Korean officials on the fate of 19 captive church volunteers Thursday, but there was no word of a breakthrough.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said the South Korean delegation told militant negotiators they cannot free eight Taliban prisoners held by Afghan authorities - a key Taliban demand.

Ahmadi said that Taliban leadership would soon decide whether to continue with the negotiations.