Main news of August 2

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RUSSIA 

* Two Russian mini-submarines have surfaced after a more than eight-hour dive to the North Pole seabed, in a symbolic Russian expedition to claim Arctic territory, the Vesti-24 TV channel reported

* Russia would like to increase the number of submarines in its Black Sea Fleet, but has so far been held back by Ukraine, Russian Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Masorin said

* Russian President Vladimir Putin signed Thursday a decree to establish an Investigation Committee with staff of more than 16,000, the Kremlin press service said

* Russia is planning to construct a naval pilot training facility on the Azov Sea coast in southern Russia, Admiral Vladimir Masorin, the Navy commander, said

*A Soyuz-U booster rocket with a Progress M-61 cargo vehicle carrying repair equipment to the International Space Station (ISS) has been launched from the Baikonur space center, a Russian Mission Control spokesman said

* Russia's Progress M-59 space cargo ship carrying garbage from the International Space Station (ISS) burned up over the Pacific Ocean at 11:26 p.m. Wednesday Moscow time (7:26 p.m. GMT), Mission Control said

* Two people were killed when an earthquake hit the southern half of Sakhalin Island in Russia's Far East midday, a local emergencies ministry spokesman said

* An agreement on cancelling Afghanistan's $11 billion Soviet-era debt to Russia may be signed on August 6, a source in the Russian Finance Ministry said

* Two regiments of the 16th Air Army will be equipped with new Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers in the near future, Major General Alexander Belevich said

WORLD

* At least seven people died and 60 were hurt when a bridge spanning the Mississippi River buckled suddenly in the midst of rush hour Wednesday, sending cars hurtling into the water 60 feet below

* A regular meeting of delegations from the six countries involved in talks on the North Korean nuclear problem have been preliminarily set for early September, Vladimir Rakhmanin, Russia's envoy to the negotiations, said

* A United States icebreaker will leave Seattle August 6 for an Arctic research mission, just after Russia attempts to symbolically lay claim to a huge section of the region, the Coast Guard said

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov:

called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to revise its moratorium on accession of new members to its regional security forum

- Moscow expects a written response from the United States to its counterproposal on Washington's plans for a missile shield in Central Europe

- the Arctic expedition currently underway is designed to demonstrate scientifically that the energy-rich shelf near the North Pole is an extension of Russian territory

* Monsoon floods killed at least 22 people and affected more than 10 million people in northern and northeastern India, local radio reported

* U.S. Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad signed an agreement on an $80-million U.S. aid package for Palestinian security efforts, Arab television channels said 

* Inspectors from the United Nations nuclear watchdog will arrive in Japan Sunday to inspect a nuclear facility damaged in a fierce earthquake in July, Japan's Kyodo news agency said

* An election campaign has officially started in Ukraine, 60 days before parliamentary polls fixed ahead of schedule in a bid to end a bitter political crisis in the ex-Soviet state

* Belarus will pay $460 million to Russian energy giant Gazprom from national reserves to cover its accumulated debt for natural gas debt supplies since the start of the year, President Alexander Lukashenko said

* The European Commission will convene a meeting of its gas coordination group next week to discuss Russia's move to cut natural gas deliveries to Belarus, a spokesperson for the European Union's executive branch said

* The European Union is considering the possibility of sending peacekeepers to Sudan's Darfur province, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said

* Slobodan Samardzic, Serbia's minister for Kosovo, confirmed that Belgrade was receiving off-the-record proposals from the EU that it form a confederation with its predominantly Albanian province, but said such an agreement was out of the question

* Forest fires that swept Spain's Canary Islands over the past week have been brought under control and the situation has stabilized, thanks in part to the arrival of Russian firefighting helicopters, representatives of the local administration said

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