France declares war on al-Qaida, hits base camp

France has declared war on al-Qaida, and matched its fighting words with a first attack on a base camp of the terrorist network's North African branch, after the network killed a French humanitarian worker it took hostage in April. The declaration and attack marked a shift in strategy for France, usually discreet about its behind-the-scenes battle against terrorism.

Iran will pay for babies • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated a new policy on Tuesday to encourage population growth, dismissing Iran's decades of family planning as ungodly and a Western import. The new government initiative will pay families for every new child and deposit money into the newborn's bank account until they reach 18, effectively rolling back years of efforts to boost the economy by reducing the country's runaway population growth.

Iran now willing to hold talks • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that talks with the major powers over Iran's disputed nuclear program will start in early September regardless of the conditions he set last month. The interview, aired by the state-owned English language Press TV, is the latest in a series of announcements by Iran of its willingness to talk about nuclear issues, most likely in an effort to deflect pressure and international sanctions.

U.S. audit finds $8.5 billion missing • A U.S. audit has found that the Pentagon cannot account for over 95 percent of $9.1 billion in Iraq reconstruction money, spotlighting Iraqi complaints that there is little to show for the massive funds pumped into their cash-strapped, war-ravaged nation. The $8.7 billion in question was Iraqi money managed by the Pentagon, not part of the $53 billion that Congress has allocated for rebuilding. It is cash that Iraq, which relies on volatile oil revenue to fuel its spending, can ill afford to lose.

Iraq parliament still divided • Iraq's new Parliament canceled an already postponed session and announced that it would not even try to meet again until further notice. With no clear resolution in sight, many politicians now say that the impasse could extend after the United States officially ends its combat mission here after more than seven years of war and reduces the number of troops to fewer than 50,000 by the end of August.

From news services