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N. Ireland talks end without a deal

Despite pressure from the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland, three days of negotiations among the leaders of Northern Ireland's political parties failed to bridge important differences over how to share power and end paramilitary violence.

But the two prime ministers, Tony Blair or Britain and Bertie Ahern of Ireland, said Saturday that progress had been made, and they indicated the framework for a breakthrough that would allow Protestants and Catholics to re-establish local rule based on power sharing was on the table.

Reading a joint statement, Blair said negotiations would resume next week to bring a deal "to an early conclusion." Failing that, he said, he and Ahern would resort to unspecified steps to increase the political pressure. He would not set a deadline for a deal, but said "certainly before Christmas."

Barrels tapped for Germany's Oktoberfest

MUNICH, Germany _ With the traditional cry of O'zapft is! _ "It's tapped!" _ Munich's mayor cracked a barrel of Bavarian beer at noon Saturday, opening the southern city's 171st Oktoberfest festival for a crowd of some 500,000.

Dressed in Bavarian knee-length leather pants, or lederhosen, Christian Ude wished the crowd a "peaceful Oktoberfest" before a thundering 12-gun salute signaled the 16-day festival's opening.

The world's biggest beer-drinking festival is always a huge tourist draw, and some 6-million visitors from around the world are expected to cram Munich's sprawling Theresienwiese festival grounds this year to fill the beer tents and hit the pretzel and sausage stands.

Post office announces overseas deadlines

WASHINGTON _ Parcels traveling to civilians in the Middle East by surface mail should be sent by Oct. 21 to be there in time for the holidays, the Postal Service said Friday.

Parcel post addressed to military APO and FPO addresses worldwide should be sent by Nov. 13, the agency said. The deadline is Nov. 27 for mail shipped on military aircraft when space is available and Dec. 4 for military parcel airlift mail.

First-class letters and priority mail to APO-FPO addresses with ZIP codes beginning with "093" should be sent by Dec. 6, and the deadline for other military ZIP codes is Dec. 11.

The post office advises that military mail should include the service member's full name, military organization, unit and APO-FPO number. Do not include the country name in the address of military mail. More deadlines and information can be found at www.usps.com.

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