World briefs: Iran releases human rights lawyer

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TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran released a dozen prominent political prisoners, including a human rights lawyer who defended opposition activists and was imprisoned for three years, activists, media and the lawyer's husband said Wednesday.

The release of lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and the other prisoners comes ahead of a visit next week by Iran's new president to New York to speak at the United Nations. President Hasan Rouhani has said he hopes to usher in a new era of "increased openness" for the Islamic Republic at home and abroad.

The semi-official ISNA news agency and opposition websites reported the release of the prisoners, who had been held on security charges following Iran's disputed 2009 election.

Cocaine exports to fall

LIMA, Peru -- Peru's illegal cocaine industry, the world's largest, will begin contracting next year as the government destroys the crops that form the basis of the drug at a record pace, U.S. Ambassador Rose Likins says.

Eradication partially financed by the United States will remove about 54,360 acres of coca plants this year, about one-third of Peru's crop, Ms. Likins said in an interview at U.S. Embassy in Lima.

N. Korea open to talks

HONG KONG -- North Korea is willing to work with China to resume six-party talks aimed at curtailing its nuclear program, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan told China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a meeting Tuesday that his country would work toward resumption of the talks "to fundamentally ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," according to a statement posted on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's website.

Election official killed

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The Taliban killed a top election official in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, in an attack that many here saw as an early effort to disrupt the country's looming presidential elections.

Two gunmen on a motorbike shot Amanullah Aman, the head of the Independent Election Commission in Kunduz province, as he walked to his office, according to police. The Taliban announced in a Dari-language post on Twitter shortly after the attack that Mr. Aman "was killed by our Mujahideen."

State faulted on Benghazi

WASHINGTON -- Senior House Republicans on Wednesday accused the State Department of failing to hold senior officials accountable for security failures that contributed to the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year in which four Americans were killed.

"No State Department personnel have been fired or even disciplined," said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Sudan, U.S. spar over visa

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudan on Wednesday condemned the United States for suggesting that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir should turn himself in to the International Criminal Court before heading to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.

The U.S. State Department has said that Washington received a visa request for Mr. Bashir, but that before going to the U.N. headquarters he should present himself to the ICC to answer for alleged war crimes linked to the conflict in Sudan's Darfur. An estimated 300,000 people have died since 2003 due to fighting.

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