S. Korean Official Backs North

On Peaceful Nuclear Program

SEOUL -- A senior South Korean official said Thursday that North Korea had the right to a peaceful nuclear program, a view that conflicts with the U.S. position in a disagreement with the North that has snagged disarmament talks.

"Our position is that North Korea has a general right to peaceful use of nuclear energy, for agricultural, medical and power-generating purposes," the South Korean unification minister, Chung Dong Young, told the online news service Media Daum.

There was no immediate reaction from the Bush administration.

Envoys at the talks, which in addition to North Korea, the United States and South Korea, involve China, Japan and Russia, decided on a recess Sunday after 13 days of negotiations. The talks are to reconvene later this month.

europe

* PARIS -- Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin announced the creation of a new security force that will survey train stations, airports and areas in France known for clandestine immigration.

Villepin said the new force was part of a renewed effort to control illegal immigration. "We deported 11,000 people in 2003 and 16,000 in 2004," Villepin said. "My goal is to reach 20,000 in 2005."

In June, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said young people from Africa, China, Moldova, Georgia, Russia and Chechnya had been finding refuge in certain regions since 2003, according to the French newspaper Le Monde.

-- Erika Lorentzsen

ASIA

* QALAT, Afghanistan -- Afghan villagers said U.S. warplanes had bombed houses, killing several civilians and wounding others, including an infant. Meanwhile, a U.S. service member was killed when fighters ambushed military engineers in Paktika province.

The governor of Zabol province, Ali Khail, said U.S.-led forces made "a mistake" during operations in the southern province and that civilians were killed. He gave no details.

The U.S. military denied that civilians were at the scene of fighting in Day Chopan district Monday. U.S. officials said earlier that 18 suspected Taliban guerrillas and one U.S. service member had been killed.

* JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesian prosecutors demanded the death sentence for an Islamic extremist charged with helping plan the bombing of the Australian Embassy in 2004 that killed 11 people. Iwan Darmawan is accused of buying a van and materials for explosives and of hiding key suspects.

* ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan tested its first nuclear-capable, ground-launched cruise missile without informing archrival India, a Pakistani military spokesman said. The two nuclear-armed countries agreed last week to inform each other about missile tests, but the spokesman said India was not told because the agreement did not cover cruise missiles.

* KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysia's prime minister declared an emergency in two regions, closing workplaces and calling on mosques to hold prayers for rain to rid the country of hazardous haze drifting from Indonesia, where hundreds of forest fires have been set to clear land in dry weather.

-- From News Services