Negotiators fail to set deadline for N. Korea

n BEIJING - Arms negotiators failed to agree on a deadline for North Korea to disable its nuclear facilities, the United States said Thursday, casting doubt on when Pyongyang will proceed with its promised disarmament after shuttering its sole operating reactor.

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill entered the six-nation talks this week saying he hoped to get a commitment from the North to declare its nuclear programs and disable them by year's end. But on the eve of the talks' end Friday, he said the sides had agreed to have working groups of experts pore over technical details for those next steps before the top envoys from all sides endorse a timeframe.

High speed of crashed plane puzzles experts

n SAO PAULO, Brazil - Experts puzzled Thursday over why a jetliner raced down a runway instead of slowing down before it crashed in a fireball that killed 189 people - an accident that set off a fierce debate over whether to close Brazil's busiest airport.

Security video released by the air force showed TAM Flight 3054 speeding down the tarmac more than four times as fast as other planes landing around the same time. That raised the possibility of pilot or mechanical error instead of a slick and short runway widely cited as a likely cause.

Russia boots 4 British diplomats

n STARAYA TERIZMORGA, Russia - Russia retaliated against Britain in an escalating diplomatic fight Thursday, but President Vladimir Putin sought to calm what he called a 'mini-crisis' over his refusal to extradite a suspect in the murder of a Kremlin critic in London.

He spoke after Russia announced it would send four British diplomats home in response to the expulsion of four Russian envoys from Britain because of the Kremlin's decision not to hand over suspect Andrei Lugovoi for trial.

Officials say Iraq gripped by fear

n WASHINGTON - Iraq is a nation gripped by fear and struggling to meet security and political goals by September, U.S. officials said Thursday, dashing hopes in Congress that the country might turn a corner this summer.

One general said not to expect a solid judgment on the U.S. troop buildup until November.

'If there is one word, I would use to sum up the atmosphere in Iraq ... that word would be 'fear,' Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.