North Koreans ready to start talks on nuclear weapons

North Korea expressed its readiness earlier today to discuss initial steps of its nuclear disarmament, raising hopes for the first tangible progress at international talks on Pyongyang’s atomic weapons program since they began more than three years ago.

“We are prepared to discuss first-stage measures,” the North’s nuclear envoy Kim Kye Gwan said on arriving in Beijing for the six-nation negotiations set to start later today.

Media reports have suggested the North may agree to freeze its main nuclear reactor and allow international inspectors in exchange for energy aid as a starting step to disarm.


Five Army Reserve officers indicted on corruption charges

Three U.S. Army Reserve officers were indicted yesterday, accused of taking part in a bid-rigging scam that steered millions of dollars for Iraq reconstruction projects to a contractor in exchange for cash, luxury cars and jewelry.

An American businessman in Romania was charged as the go-between for the military officers and the contractor. The husband of one of the reservists was accused of helping smuggle tens of thousands of dollars into the United States that the couple used to pay for a deck and a hot tub at their New Jersey house.

Charges against the five include bribery, conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and transporting stolen property.


Poll: Americans ready to normalize relations with Cuba

In nearly equal measure, Americans say they don’t like Cuban President Fidel Castro but do want the United States to re-establish regular diplomatic relations with the communist island nation after 46 years of estrangement.

Less than half of those polled think Cuba will become a democracy after the 80-year-old revolutionary leader dies or permanently steps aside. However, 89 percent in The Associated Press-Ipsos poll say they think Cubans will be better off or about the same when Castro is gone.

Castro has appeared to be in failing health for six months and has temporarily shifted power to his younger brother Raul. Rumors have been rampant about his ailments and how long he can survive.

The poll suggests the Cold War animosity that has defined U.S.-Cuba relations for nearly a half-century may be fading.


American soldier to be tried in Italy for ‘political murder’

A judge yesterday ordered a U.S. soldier to stand trial in absentia for the fatal shooting of an Italian intelligence agent at a checkpoint in Baghdad, the prosecutor said.

Spc. Mario Lozano is indicted for murder and attempted murder in the death of Nicola Calipari, who was shot on March 4, 2005, on his way to the Baghdad airport shortly after securing the release of an Italian journalist who had been kidnapped in the Iraqi capital, prosecutor Pietro Saviotti said.

According to prosecutors, the judge said in his ruling that Lozano can be tried for “political murder,” because Calipari was a civil servant and his slaying damaged Italy’s interests.

Prosecutors so far have not sought the soldier’s arrest.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said there are no plans to make Lozano available for the trial.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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