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COMPANY SAYS WEAPONS DEALS NEARLY DONE

LIBYA

European Aeronautic Defense and Space, Europe's largest aerospace company, confirmed Friday that it was close to signing two weapons contracts with the government of Libya. It would be the first arms deal with the North African country since the European Union lifted military sanctions on it nearly three years ago. The progress on contracts with the company, which is under French and German management, worth $405-million by some accounts, come just a week after French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Tripoli and helped secure the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor who had spent more than eight years in prison after being accused of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV.

AFGHANISTAN

Three Taliban killed in U.S. airstrikes

U.S.-led airstrikes hit a Taliban gathering in volatile southern Afghanistan on Thursday and killed at least three senior figures of the militant group, government officials said Friday. Local officials and doctors said dozens of wounded were brought to hospitals, one of them an 8-year-old boy. The Defense Ministry said its intelligence reports indicated three militant leaders, including Taliban commander for Helmand province Mullah Rahim, were among those killed. The Taliban commander for all of southern Afghanistan, Dadullah Mansoor, was at the scene but his fate was not immediately known, officials said. A purported Taliban spokesman denied Rahim was killed.

WASHINGTON

Envoy nomination is withdrawn

The White House gave in to Democratic objections and on Friday withdrew the nomination of a career diplomat to be ambassador to Armenia. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., placed a hold on the nomination of Richard Hoagland for the second time in January because of Hoagland's refusal to call the World War I-era killings of Armenians a genocide. Hoagland's confirmation was blocked by Senate Democrats in the last Congress and the Bush administration resubmitted his name in January when the new Congress convened.

Elsewhere

England: Cattle on a southern England farm have been infected with highly infectious foot-and-mouth disease, British authorities said Friday. An outbreak of the disease last developed in Britain in 2001, leading to the slaughter of millions of animals.

Mexico: Police found three bodies in a natural well near Cancun that are believed to be tied to a Cuban-American smuggling ring, officials said Friday. Among those found was the Mexican girlfriend of Luis Lazaro Lara Morejon, a Cuban-American being investigated for smuggling Cubans through Mexico to the United States. His bullet-riddled body was found earlier this week outside Cancun.

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