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Prison standoff continues in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan - Hundreds of Afghan soldiers with tanks and grenade-launchers surrounded Kabul's main prison Sunday after rioting inmates seized control of much of the facility in an uprising that officials blamed on al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

Local media reported several people were killed and dozens injured. But it appeared security forces had yet to gain access to parts of the jail under prisoners' control, so officials could not confirm reports of casualties. One official said at least four inmates were injured.

Government negotiators late Sunday suspended talks to end the standoff at the Policharki jail, which later this year is slated to receive dozens of Afghans currently in the U.S. military's prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The riot broke out late Saturday in Block 2 of the prison, which houses about 1,300 of the 2,000 inmates. Abdul Salaam Bakshi, chief of prisons in Afghanistan, accused captured al-Qaida and Taliban loyalists of inciting the other prisoners, mostly common criminals.

He said no inmates escaped from the prison block but guards had been forced out.

About 100 of the rioters from Block 2 had taken control of the neighboring wing of the jail housing about 70 women, said Mohammed Qasim Hashimzai, deputy justice minister.

Iran, Russia move ahead on enrichment deal

BUSHEHR, Iran - Iran and Russia agreed in principle Sunday to establish a joint uranium enrichment venture, a breakthrough in talks on a U.S.-backed Kremlin proposal aimed at easing concerns that Tehran wants to build nuclear weapons.

But further negotiations on the details lay ahead, and it was not known whether Iran will entirely give up enrichment at home, a top demand of the West.

The deal - announced by the two countries' top nuclear chiefs after a visit to a Russian-built nuclear plant in southern Iran - could deflect any move by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency at its March 6 meeting to recommend the Security Council consider action on Iran.

Iran's deputy nuclear chief, Mohammad Saeedi, warned that the deal would be off if the International Atomic Energy Agency refers Iran to the Security Council, a step that could lead to economic or political sanctions.

Elsewhere . . .

IRAN: About 400 hard-line students threw stones and firebombs at the British Embassy in Tehran on Sunday, blaming Britain and the United States for the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Iraq. A few windows were broken during the two-hour protest, before Iranian police dispersed the students.

PAKISTAN: About 25,000 people rallied Sunday in Karachi against cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, while authorities stopped a rally in Lahore, where several others have turned deadly, by detaining 150 people.

THAILAND: An estimated 60,000 to 100,000 protesters in Bangkok on Sunday demanded that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra resign, and opposition parties called for a meeting with the embattled leader to discuss political reforms. Thaksin dissolved Parliament Friday in a move forcing national elections three years early and guaranteeing a showdown with political opponents who have accused him of corruption.

ISRAEL: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon marked his 78th birthday Sunday in a coma in Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital. Sharon has been unconscious since suffering a stroke on Jan. 4. He remains in critical but stable condition. His doctors have said that with each passing day, his chances of recovery are slimmer.

SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi Arabia said Sunday that two suicide bombers killed in a foiled attack on the world's biggest oil processing complex were on its list of most-wanted extremists. The Saudi Interior Ministry identified the two as Abdullah Abdul-Aziz al-Tweijri and Mohammed Saleh al-Gheith and said both were on a list issued in June of the 15 most-wanted terrorists. Now four from the list remain at large.

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