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NATO turns over security in eastern capital

MEHTERLAM — NATO handed over responsibility for the security of the capital of an eastern province to Afghan forces Tuesday, the latest step in a transition process that will lead to the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

The U.S.-led coalition has started a process of transferring security in parts of the country where they feel Afghan forces are strong enough to take control, though so far that has largely been restricted to provincial capitals as much of the country remains lawless and unstable after a decade of war.

U.S. forces turned over control of Mehterlam, the capital of Laghman province, but they will retain responsibility for the other areas in the predominantly Pashtun province that remain under the influence of the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

JAPAN

Crippled nuclear plant reaches stability

TOKYO — The crippled reactors at Japan’s tsunami-hit nuclear power plant have reached stability more than four months since the disaster and the plant is on track for a cold shutdown within six months, the government and plant operator said Tuesday.

Workers have toiled in hot and harsh conditions to stabilize the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami destroyed reactor cooling systems, triggering partial meltdowns of the reactors and making the disaster the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

The assessment of reactor stability was based on several milestones: temperatures at the bottom of reactor pressure vessels are no longer climbing, a makeshift system to process contaminated water works properly after initial problems and nitrogen injections are helping prevent more explosions.

Radiation around the plant has shown a “sufficient decrease” from peak levels measured soon after the disaster.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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