BBC news with Jerry Schmitt.

Preliminary counting has begun following presidential and parliamentary elections in the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. Opposition parties have alleged voting irregularities, but the Iraqi Electoral Commission said the poll has been transparent. The final result which is not expected for several days is being widely seen as crucial to future negotiations over / control of Kurdistan’s oil wealth and territorial disputes with the federal government. The incumbent Kurdish President Massoud Barzani said all problems should be settled through constitutional means.

This election is a victory for the people of Kurdistan and the Iraqi people, and this is the important thing. The other thing is that I want to tell the Iraqi people that we are brothers and partners in this country and we are ready to defend Basra, Ramadi, Baghdad, or Neojave, as we defend Arbil, Sulaimaniyah and Duhuk, and there is a constitution which we can refer to whenever there is a problem between the region and Baghdad.

Three opposition leaders in Iran have called on senior clerics to help secure the release of what they say are hundreds of people arrested after last month’s disputed elections. In a flurry of statements on websites, they accused the authorities of torturing detainees and abusing the country’s intelligence network to suppress opposition.

Officials in Afghanistan say Taliban fighters have tried to carry out multiple suicide attacks on government buildings in the eastern city of Khost. Locals reported gun battles between police and militants lasting several hours. David Loyn reports from Kabul.

The Taliban have used coordinated suicide attacks with more precision recently. The raid in Khost close to the Pakistani border was the third such attack in Afghanistan in a week as the country prepares to hold presidential elections. At least three and possibly as many as seven suicide bombers were involved. And other Taliban fighters followed up the explosions with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. Some of the bombers blew themselves up after approaching the police station wearing border police uniforms while other targets included a bank and a military hospital.

The Columbian military says it has killed at least 16 Maoist rebels of the FARC during an assault on a jungle camp in a central province. A spokesman said ground troops found the bodies following air bombardments of the camp. The FARC has been on the defensive in recent years in the face of military successes by President Alvaro Uribe.

The deposed President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya has returned to the country’s border with Nicaragua and said he would set up camp there to put pressure on the interim government to allow him to return. On Friday, he made a symbolic crossing into Honduras, but withdrew after being confronted by troops.

World news from the BBC.

President Obama’s special envoy for the Middle East George Mitchell is in Syria where he is due to meet President Bashar Assad in a few hours’ time. And the US State Department says Mr. Mitchell wants to look at ways of promoting peace talks between Syria and Israel where he is expected to arrive in the afternoon. Natalia Antelava reports.

It’s still rare for Syrian officials to praise Washington publicly, and most of them choose to approach President Obama’s new initiatives in the region with cautious skepticism. But in private, some Syrian officials say they are encouraged by what one of them desCRIbed as Washington’s new willingness to listen. No one in Damascus is expecting this visit to bring an immediate breakthrough and Washington is still a long way away from getting Damascus on its side. But for now at least, the atmosphere of hostility which dominated during the Bush administration seems to be a thing of the past.

Brazil and Paraguay have reached agreements on a long-simmering dispute over the use of energy from a giant hydro-electric plant on their border. Charles Haviland reports.

Under the accord, Brazil will pay Paraguay considerably more for energy from the Itaipu plant which is one of the world’s largest hydro-electric schemes. Speaking after talks in Paraguay, the Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva desCRIbed it as a historic agreement. He said it was not in Brazil’s interest to have a neighbor that was moving at a slower pace of development. The Paraguayan leader Fernando Lugo said both countries stood to gain. It’s been a priority for his left-wing administration to maximize revenue from the plant which was developed at a time when both countries were under military rule.

The Ferrari Formula One driver Felipe Massa has undergone surgery after sustaining a skull fracture in a high-speed crash in Hungary. The hospital spokesman said his condition was serious but stable. Massa crashed his Ferrari into a tyre barrier after being hit in the helmet.

BBC news.

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