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npr news on 12.24

From NPR News in Washington, I'm Barbra Client.

A meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly ended. Agreement has been reached on several confidence-building measures. NPR's Linda Grustin has more on the surprise meeting.
It comes after heavy international pressure on Olmert to do more to strengthen Abbas over the ruling Hamas Movement. Abbas recently announced he will call new Palestinian elections, an announcement that sparked violence between his Fatah and Hamas in Gaza that left at least 10 Palestinians dead. Palestinian officials say what would most strengthen Abbas is an Israeli release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. But Olmert has said he won't do that until Hamas frees an Israeli solider captured in June. Linda Grustin, NPR News Jerusalem.

The UN Security Council has unanimously approved sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear activities. The resolution prohibits all countries from supplying materials and technologies that could contribute to Iran's uranium enrichment program. Acting US ambassador to the UN Alejandro Wolff says the resolution is the result of intense diplomatic discussions. "We are working nationally with our friends and allies, with the institutions like the EU to implement these measures and ensure that there is no assistance provided to Iran's enrichment, reprocessing heavy water or ballistic weapons programs. " Iran says the resolution is illegal and vows to continue its nuclear activities.

Coalition forces in Afghanistan say they have killed a top Taliban leader. Military spokesmen say Akhtar Mohammed Osmani had been leading the insurgency in southern Afghanistan where it has been the strongest. The BBC's John Migivering has more.
The statement from Coalition forces in Afghanistan said Osmani and two of his associates were killed in an air strike while traveling in a vehicle in Helmand province close to the border with Pakistan. It described his death as a major breakthrough. But the spokesman for the Taliban denied that Osmani has been killed, and dismissed the news as Coalition propaganda. The BBC's John Migivering in Kabul.

Islamists fighting the weak western-backed transitional government in Somalia are calling on Muslims around the world for help. Government forces have been defending Baidoa, its only stronghold, from Islamic Courts Union fighters since Tuesday. The Islamists are also targeting Ethiopian troops which are supporting the official Somali government. The Islamists want Somalia to be under Koranic rule.

Outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says Sudan may be willing to approve a peacekeeping force for the Darfur region. He said Khartoum might agree to African Union peacekeeping troops with support from the United Nations. Annan recently sent a special envoy to Sudan.

This is NPR News.

Some 15, 000 striking GoodYear workers in the United State and Canada could return to work as early as January third if they ratify a tentative agreement reached yesterday. We have details from Mark Uricky of member station WCPN in Cleveland.
The deal between the largest American tyre company and the United Steel Workers Union could end a two-and-half-month-old strike that affected 12 plants in the US and four in Canada. Union spokesman Wayne Ranick said key to the agreement was saving health care benefits for retirees. "We believe that this is something that the current retirees have already earned and they should not have taken away from them, and also we have many people who have worked a number of years in anticipation of having this type of coverage in retirement years. " Retirees will pay what Rudnick called a very modest increase in premiums. The company also agreed to reverse its plans to shut down its plant in Talor, Texas, pledging to keep it open at least one more year. For NPR News, I'm Mark Uricky in Cleveland.

Denver's International Airport has reopened after a blizzard forced it to close for 2 days. But spokesman Chuck Cannon says delayed travelers shouldn't expect to get on a plane anytime soon because travelers with tickets for today have priority. "They are getting on the planes first, the ones whose flights were canceled are being put on standby, and the problem is there are not many empty seats to use for standbys, so there are a lot of those people whose flights were canceled earlier that are not gonna get where they wanna be by Christmas.
Meanwhile the fog is lifted over London's Heathrow Airport, Europe's busiest stand. Some normality is returning after more than 1000 flights were canceled over the last 3 days.

I'm Barbra Client, NPR News in Washington.

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