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800 soldiers sail out to start Aceh withdrawal

LHOKSEUMAWE, Indonesia (AP) -- About 800 Indonesian troops sailed out of Aceh province Sunday at the start of a withdrawal under a peace deal to end one of Southeast Asia's longest-running civil wars.

The troops were the first batch of about 30,000 set to leave the province on Sumatra island before the end of the year.

Efforts to end the conflict between rebels and the military accelerated after the Dec. 26 tsunami crashed into the province, killing 131,000 people there and leaving half a million others homeless. It was the hardest-hit area in the tsunami devastation zone.

A peace agreement signed last month in Finland between the government and the rebels is seen as the province's best chance in years to permanently end three decades of fighting that has killed nearly 15,000 people.

Last week, the rebels surrendered more than a quarter of their 840 weapons to European Union and Southeast Asian peace monitors, with the remainder to be handed over by Dec. 31.

Putin rejects notion of rivalry with U.S.

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said Sunday that it was impossible for Russia to resume its Cold War rivalry with the United States.

"We are not adversaries. We are partners in many areas of international activities," he said in an interview broadcast by Fox News.

But Putin reiterated his opposition to a U.S.-European push to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for consideration of sanctions over its nuclear program.

Russia is building an atomic power plant in Iran despite U.S. concerns that Iran may be trying to build nuclear weapons.

Putin, whose government fiercely opposed the war to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, also said the United States should pull its troops out of Iraq within two years.

He said the U.S.-led coalition's military presence in Iraq is fueling the insurgency.

OPEC chief supports rise in output ceiling

VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- OPEC should increase its oil output ceiling this week, even amid signs of slowing demand, to show the world that it is concerned about near-record oil prices, the cartel's president said Sunday ahead of a key policy meeting Tuesday.

Sheik Ahmed Fahd Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who is also Kuwait's oil minister, said the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries may need to act again before the end of the year as U.S. refineries hit by Hurricane Katrina recover and winter sets in.

"We think we need to send a message to everybody there will be extra oil in the market -- we've accepted the idea -- to stabilize the price," he said.

OPEC is poised to increase its output ceiling, currently 28 million barrels a day, by 500,000 barrels a day.

Oil Minister Ali Naimi of Saudi Arabia, the OPEC member with the best capacity to increase production, has said that he supports a rise in the ceiling but that he also did not see an increased demand for crude. He did not say how much the ceiling might rise.

U.N. agency urges talks on Iran N-program

VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- The chief U.N. nuclear inspector today urged an end to confrontation over Iran's atomic program and suggested talks should take precedence over U.S. and European threats to send Tehran to the U.N. Security Council.

But the Western push for referral to the United Nations appeared back on track. Diplomats said U.S. and European officials at a key meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency had resumed work on a draft resolution calling for Security Council involvement, to be voted on later this week by the IAEA's 35-nation governing board.

IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei appeared exasperated at the standoff over Iran.

"I think we regrettably . . . are going though a period of confrontations and political brinkmanship," he said, indirectly chiding both Tehran's nuclear intransigence and the Western push for Security Council referral.

ElBaradei again urged Iran to meet his agency's requests.

"I've made it very clear . . . that we need . . . access to individuals, (and) making documents available," he said.

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