WORLD IN BRIEF: Palestinian OK clears way for Mideast talks

Palestinian OK clears way for Mideast talks

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Formal Palestinian approval of indirect talks with Israel cleared the way Saturday for President Barack Obama's first sustained on-the-ground attempt to bring peace to the Middle East.

White House envoy George Mitchell will try in four months of shuttle diplomacy to rebuild trust between Israeli and Palestinian leaders and narrow some of their vast differences, in hopes of nudging them toward direct negotations.

However, expectations are low and obstacles seem insurmountable. The Israelis and Palestinians remain far apart on what a Palestinian state should look like.

Taliban vow new Afghan offensive

KABUL — In an attempt to steal the spotlight from Afghan President Hamid Karzai's trip to Washington, the Taliban on Saturday threatened to launch a series of attacks across Afghanistan — a claim the defense minister quickly dismissed as insurgent propaganda.

The Taliban said their spring offensive, targeting Afghan and NATO military and staff plus foreign contractors, would begin on Monday — the same day that Karzai begins meetings in Washington.

Bombs planted in Iraq home of policeman kill 3

BAGHDAD — Bombs planted inside the home of a policeman in northern Iraq exploded Saturday, killing him, his mother and one other resident, a security official said.

The bombing was one of several attacks around Iraq's north that killed at least 10 people over the weekend, a sign that authorities are struggling to maintain security as the country's politicians clamor over the shape of a new government two months after an inconclusive election.

Ban asks about nuke test treaty

UNITED NATIONS — An impatient U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is pushing to set a deadline for activating the treaty banning all nuclear tests, stepping up pressure in a campaign to win over holdouts, including the U.S. Senate.

‘‘The bottom line is this: It has been 15 years since the treaty was opened for signature. How long must we wait?'' Ban asked delegates at the opening of a pivotal, monthlong conference on nuclear nonproliferation.

— From wire reports