World briefs: 30 Pakistani soldiers killed

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PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Four days of fierce fighting in northwestern Pakistan left 30 soldiers and nearly 100 militants dead as the army attempted to wrestle control of a remote, mountainous valley from the Taliban and their allies, military officials said Monday.

The army launched its offensive in the Tirah Valley on Friday after weeks of fighting between rival militant groups forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee. The valley is in Khyber, part of the semiautonomous tribal region bordering Afghanistan, the main sanctuary for the Taliban in the country.

Iran told to come clean

WASHINGTON -- The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog said Monday his agency could not rule out the possibility that Iran was actively seeking nuclear weapons technology, citing intelligence on suspicious research by Iranian scientists that occurred as recently as a few years ago.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at a conference on nuclear nonproliferation that it was crucial that Iran come clean on its nuclear past, granting full access to facilities and documents as well as key scientists believed involved in the work.

Putin faces topless protest

HANOVER, Germany -- Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday criticized Russia's treatment of civil society groups at a news conference with President Vladimir Putin after he was subjected to a protest by topless women shouting "dictator."

Mr. Putin was in Hanover to open the annual trade fair, where Russia is this year's partner country, after Russian authorities searched the local offices of nongovernmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Mr. Putin dismissed the criticism, saying Russia isn't restricting the work of German NGOs and that he "liked" the topless protest. Russia had been warned of the action, he said.

Also in the world ...

Hungary has banned a planned April 21 rally in Budapest organized under the slogan "Give Gas" that was planned to coincide with a Holocaust memorial march after a Jewish group complained that it amounted to a call for genocide. ... President Barack Obama cleared the way Monday for the U.S. to arm and train Somali forces, taking a step toward normal relations with the East African nation as it works to build confidence in its newly recognized government. ... Brazil's Congress approved a constitutional amendment granting domestic servants an eight-hour work day, overtime pay and other rights enjoyed by the rest of the workforce.

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