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WORLD IN BRIEF: Iran prepares to start up first nuclear reactor

Iran prepares to start up first nuclear reactor

BUSHEHR, Iran -- Iranian and Russian nuclear technicians made final preparations to start up Iran's first reactor today after years of delays, an operation that will mark a milestone in what Tehran considers its right to produce nuclear energy.

Nationwide celebrations are planned for the fuel loading at the Bushehr facility in southern Iran, while Russia pledges to safeguard the plant and prevent spent nuclear fuel from being shifted to a possible weapons program.

''The startup operations will be a big success for Iran,'' conservative lawmaker Javad Karimi said in Tehran. ''It also shows Iran's resolve and capability in pursuing its nuclear activities.''

Israel and Palestinians to talk peace

WASHINGTON -- Plunging into the Mideast peacemaker's role that has defeated so many U.S. leaders, President Barack Obama on Friday invited Israel and the Palestinians to try anew in face-to-face talks for a historic agreement to establish an independent Palestinian state and secure peace for Israel.

Negotiations shelved two years ago will resume Sept. 2 in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for dinner the night before.

The goal: a deal in a year's time on the toughest issues that have sunk previous negotiations, including the borders of a new Palestinian state and the fate of disputed Jerusalem, claimed as a holy capital by both peoples.

Teenage sailor to set off today

PORTIMAO, Portugal -- A 14-year-old Dutch girl will set off today on an attempt to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, her manager said.

Laura Dekker's ambition of completing the yearlong trip has fueled a global debate over the wisdom of allowing young sailors to take on the tremendous risks of sailing the high seas alone.

Before Laura can cast off, the wind must pick up in southwest Portugal because by late evening the sea off the port of Portimao was like a mirror. Such conditions could postpone any attempt to sail into the Atlantic.