Global-warming talks get a boost

CANCUN, Mexico - The slow-moving U.N. talks on combating global warming took a step forward Saturday with revised proposals for a $100-billion-a-year climate-aid fund and other issues for debate by the world's environment ministers this week.

Despite that advance, the chairwoman of key closed-door negotiations warned the open conference that obstacles remain to what delegates hope will be a package of decisions next Friday on financial and other side matters under the U.N. climate treaty.

"Progress has been made in some areas," Zimbabwe's Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe said. But she said the talks were "going backward" on important issues. "We need to redouble our efforts."

Environment ministers began flying in Saturday for the final days of the annual two-week climate conference, hoping to put new life in the U.N. talks. Last week, under Mukahanana-Sangarwe's leadership, a working group from among the 193 treaty nations sought to whittle down the contested texts of proposed decisions. - AP

Iranian says U.N. sending in spies

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's intelligence minister accused the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency of sending spies in the guise of inspectors to collect information about Iran's nuclear activities, state TV reported Saturday.

The claim was another sign that Iran has hardened its stance since the assassination a week ago of a prominent nuclear scientist and the wounding of another. Iran is to hold talks beginning Monday in Geneva, Switzerland, with world powers trying to persuade it to curtail key elements of its nuclear work.

Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi said that inspectors sent by the International Atomic Energy Agency had engaged in espionage and the Vienna-based agency must take responsibility for their actions. He did not elaborate or identify the inspectors Iran was accusing.

- AP

Afghan demining experts are freed

KABUL, Afghanistan - Seven Afghan demining experts have been released, two days after kidnappers ambushed them near the Pakistan border, the border police commander for eastern Afghanistan said Saturday.

The deminers were released Friday after local elders helped in negotiations with the kidnappers, Gen. Aminullah Amerkhail said. Two of them had been beaten, he said.

The seven were the last to be released of a team of 16 Afghans seized Wednesday near the Pakistan border. The others were freed several hours after the attack near the Torkham border crossing in Nangarhar province.

- AP

Elsewhere:

A military plane carrying riot-police reinforcements landed Saturday on Easter Island, and Chile's interior minister said they would continue evicting Rapa Nui islanders who have been squatting in government buildings built on their ancestral properties. Dozens of people were wounded by police buckshot and batons after violently resisting the first such eviction Friday on the usually tranquil South Pacific island.