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WORLD: Iran says it has right to bar UN inspections

Iran says it has right to bar UN inspections

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's nuclear chief said Tehran has the right to bar some U.N. inspectors from monitoring its disputed nuclear program, the semiofficial ISNA news agency reported.

Ali Akbar Salehi's comments were in response to a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency expressing alarm about Iran's decision to bar some of its inspectors.

Iran recently stripped two inspectors of the right to monitor its nuclear activities after they reported what they said were undeclared nuclear experiments.

ISNA also quoted Salehi as saying Iran asked the agency to replace the two and that it has accepted the replacements.

Abbas asks US to step into settlement fray

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he has asked the U.S. to settle a dispute with Israel over settlement expansion that is threatening to derail Mideast peace talks.

Israel's 10-month partial freeze on new construction in West Bank settlements ends Sept. 26, and Israeli officials have indicated they will not extend the freeze as is. Abbas has said he'll quit peace talks with Israel unless the restrictions remain in place.

Abbas said late Monday that he has asked the U.S. ''to intervene in the settlement issue.''

The Obama administration has promised an active role in the talks, Abbas told reporters accompanying him on his way back from Washington, where direct negotiations were launched last week after a hiatus of nearly two years.

NATO: Afghan forces can take control in 2011

WASHINGTON -- U.S.-led NATO troops in Afghanistan should be able to start handing off responsibility for security to the Kabul government sometime next year, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Tuesday.

While stopping short of setting a firm deadline, Rasmussen's public declaration puts the security alliance in line with President Barack Obama's promise to begin pulling U.S. troops out in July 2011.

But Rasmussen's latest prediction also reflects a growing realization by NATO that security conditions won't dramatically improve this year.