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Georgia monitors are packing it in

VIENNA, Austria - A team of international monitors is ending its 16-year mission in Georgia after Russia refused to allow an extension of the assignment in a dispute over two Kremlin-backed breakaway regions in the Caucasus nation.

The mission in Georgia by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expires Dec. 31, and when OSCE chair Finland called a meeting to seek a three-month extension, talks on the issue collapsed when Russia demanded that the group join Moscow in recognizing the statehood of the provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The OSCE mission, made up of local and foreign staff, includes unarmed military monitors and also works on human rights, economic, environmental, good governance and media freedom issues. European Union observers will remain in Georgia to monitor an EU-brokered cease-fire.

- AP

Britain presses Mugabe to resign

LONDON - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe must step down from office if a power-sharing government is to succeed, Britain's minister for Africa said yesterday, signaling a hardening of London's stance on its former colony.

Mark Malloch Brown told BBC radio Mugabe was incapable of making good on a deal to govern alongside opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and would most likely be forced to quit.

His comments follow weekend remarks by the top U.S. envoy for Africa, who said that Washington could no longer support a Zimbabwean deal that leaves Mugabe in office.

- AP

Vatican backs iPhone prayers

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican is endorsing new technology that brings the book of daily prayers used by priests straight onto iPhones.

The Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications is embracing the iBreviary, an iTunes application created by a technologically savvy Italian priest, the Rev. Paolo Padrini, and an Italian Web designer.

The application includes the Breviary prayer book - in Italian, English, Spanish, French and Latin and, in the near future, Portuguese and German. Another section includes the prayers of the daily Mass, and a third contains various other prayers.

- AP


Guinea's dictator,

Lansana Conte, believed to be in his 70s, died yesterday evening after a long illness, according to the president of the African nation's National Assembly. Conte had ruled Guinea with an iron fist since grabbing power in a 1984 coup.

A former butler

to Queen Elizabeth II, Paul Kidd, was sentenced yesterday in London to at least six years in prison after admitting he molested three children, including one who accompanied him to a royal Christmas party.

Thailand's revered

King Bhumibol Adulyadej urged the new government to make peace its priority, breaking months of silence about the political turmoil that shut Bangkok's airports for days and sparked deadly violence in the streets.