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PARIS — Lebanon’s rival parties met in a French chateau yesterday for unusual and long-awaited talks meant to ease a political and sectarian crisis threatening to rip apart their country.

The closed meetings, organized by France with U.S. and Iranian approval, were not expected to break the political deadlock between the Western-backed prime minister and the Hezbollah-led opposition, but participants applauded the talks.

The weekend gatherings at La Celle Saint Cloud, west of Paris, mark the first meeting of the 14 parties since a November conference failed to resolve the tensions. Since then, the country’s worst political crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war has only deepened.

AFGHANISTAN

Canadians, Afghans kill 15 Taliban

SANGSAR — Canadian troops drove Taliban insurgents into an Afghan army ambush yesterday and then called in air strikes to hit the fleeing militants, killing at least 15, the Canadian army commander said.

The Canadian troops moved in under cover of darkness through grape, poppy and marijuana fields to a suspected Taliban compound in the village of Sangsar, near Kandahar, where fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar once lived and preached at the local mosque.

LIBYA

Debt to be forgiven in AIDS-case deal

TRIPOLI — Libyan debt dating back to the Cold War would be forgiven under a proposal to compensate families whose children were purportedly infected with AIDS by six foreign medics, a victims’ advocate said yesterday.

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor have been sentenced to death in the case, and Libyan officials have said a settlement could pave the way for their release.

Idriss Lagha, head of the Association for the Families of HIV-Infected Children, said a settlement was being finalized involving the transfer of money to a fund through the remission of debt to Bulgaria and several other Eastern European countries.

The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi told a French newspaper yesterday that $400 million in compensation would be paid to the families.

JAPAN

Typhoon hits, injuring 34

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