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WORLD IN BRIEF: Iraq voting shattered by deadly blast

BAGHDAD -- A string of deadly blasts shattered an early round of voting in Iraq Thursday, killing 17 people and highlighting the fragile nature of the country's security gains ahead of crucial parliamentary elections this Sunday.

Iraq security forces were out in full force, trying to protect early voters in an election that will determine who will lead the country through the crucial period of the U.S. troop drawdown and help decide whether the country can overcome its deep sectarian divisions.

But three explosions -- a rocket attack and two suicide bombings -- showed the ability of insurgents to carry out bloody attacks. They have promised to disrupt the voting with violence.

UN envoy says it's 'time to talk'

KABUL -- The head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan said Thursday that it's ''high time'' a political solution is found with the Taliban to resolve the more than 8-year-old conflict.

''It's time to talk,'' Kai Eide said.

In his last news conference as the U.N. representative, Eide said he hoped a spring peace jirga -- or conference -- that Afghan President Hamid Karzai is organizing would result in a national consensus for peace that the entire nation could rally around.

In a wide-ranging news conference at the heavily secured U.N. compound, Eide said he has always been behind a policy of engagement, but has no allusions about the complexities of negotiating peace with Taliban leaders.

Pakistan takes Taliban leader into custody

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistan's intelligent agents have arrested a senior Afghan Taliban commander, officials said Thursday, the latest move in a crackdown against the insurgent network in Pakistan.

Agha Jan Mohtasim, a former finance minister for the Taliban before the U.S-led invasion in 2001, was detained in the southern city of Karachi, two intelligence officials said. They did not say when the arrest was made, and spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give their names to the media.

Pakistan and Afghan officials have said at least four other Afghan Taliban leaders have been arrested in Pakistan in recent weeks, including the No. 2 leader of the movement, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.