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WORLD IN BRIEF: Israeli PM calls for peace talks with Palestine

Israeli PM calls for peace talks with Palestine

WASHINGTON -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called for an immediate resumption of peace talks with Palestinians and pledged more steps to improve economic conditions in Palestinian areas.

Netanyahu reiterated to an assembly of Jewish groups his view that peace negotiations should begin with no preconditions. He made no new proposals on constraining Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Palestinian officials insist that Israel freeze settlement activity before peace talks resume.

Iran accuses 3 Americans of espionage

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran accused three detained Americans of spying Monday, signaling Tehran intends to put them on trial. It drew a sharp U.S. response that the charges are baseless because the hikers strayed across the border from Iraq.

The announcement comes as Washington and Tehran are deadlocked in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, raising concern that the three could be used as bargaining chips in the talks or to seek the return of Iranians they say are missing.

Relatives and the U.S government say the three were innocent tourists on an adventure hike in northern Iraq and accidentally crossed into Iran where they were arrested on July 31.

Iraq election law delays decision

BAGHDAD -- After weeks of hard-nosed negotiations, analysts say the election law passed by Iraq's parliament allowing national polls to go forward in January extends compromises to all sides but with key concessions to the Kurds.

However, analysts warn the bill also sidesteps a decision on the ultimate fate of Kirkuk -- a city claimed by both Kurds and Arabs that had been a major stumbling block to the law's passage -- and ensures more battles over the city in the future.

''Because there was pressure to pass the law and have the election, they are just pushing this issue under the carpet,'' said Mustafa Alani from the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. ''I don't see a clear solution to this problem here.''

Haggling over Kirkuk had repeatedly stalled the law's passage, and further delay threatened to undermine Iraq's fledgling democracy.