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In Brief: Putin talks on Iran stand-off

THE West's stand-off with Iran over its nuclear programme will be the hot topic when Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Israeli leaders during a 24-hour visit.

Israel wants Russia to pressure Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment programme, which Israeli and world leaders believe is designed to produce bombs, not energy as Iran claims.

Russia has worked with China to water down international sanctions against Iran.

Putin is expected to a meet with Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Four killed in Chinese quake

AN earthquake has toppled houses in a mountainous part of south-western China, killing four people and injuring at least 100 more.

The magnitude-5.7 quake was centred near the border of Yunnan and Sichuan provinces where many of the Yi ethnic minority live.

China's worst earthquake in recent years struck Sichuan province in May 2008 and left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing.

Crew missing in US rail crash

Three Union Pacific Railroad crew members were missing after two freight trains collided in Oklahoma.

An eastbound train carrying vehicles and a westbound train crashed near Goodwell in western Oklahoma. A two-person crew was on board each train, and officials were unable to account for two engineers and a conductor.

The other conductor appeared to be uninjured, and officials were interviewing him about what happened.

Last tortoise George is dead

The giant tortoise Lonesome George, whose failed efforts to produce offspring made him a symbol of disappearing species, was found dead yesterday.

Lonesome George, who was thought to be about 100, was believed to be the last living member of the Pinta island subspecies.

He had become an ambassador of sorts for the Galapagos islands off Ecuador's coast whose unique flora and fauna helped inspire Charles Darwin's ideas on evolution.