World

Iraq's top two leaders issued sharply contrasting views on UN weapons inspections as the Baghdad government prepared to submit its required report this weekend on what is in its arsenal and what is not. Saddam Hussein said he'd agreed to the searches "to keep our people out of harm's way" at the hands of the US. He said inspectors would be given "the proper chance" to prove the US wrong in its contention that Iraq has banned weapons. Meanwhile, Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan angrily accused the searchers "from Day One" of spying for the US and for Israel.

The nationwide general strike against the government of Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chávez picked up a surprise boost when the crew of a state-owned oil tanker joined the protest. Its captain said five other tankers also would remain anchored offshore, shutting down exports and drawing the vital industry into the controversy. He said he objected to delivering oil to communist-run Cuba, a close Chávez ally. The three-day strike had appeared near collapse when the tanker crew acted.

Peace negotiations between the government of Sri Lanka and separatist Tamil rebels achieved a breakthrough, with the two sides agreeing to limited autonomy for the island nation's northern and eastern regions. Meeting in neutral Norway, they issued a joint statement saying competing political parties in the Tamil-dominated areas could continue their activities as long as they did so unarmed. Nineteen years of war for Tamil independence have killed almost 65,000 people.

Signs pointed to another failure Sunday when voters in Serbia try for the third time this year to choose a president. Late opinion surveys showed that fewer than the legal minimum of 50 percent plus one of those registered likely would go to the polls, as happened in the first attempt at a runoff in October. The election is a key part of political reform in what's left of Yugoslavia, whose president, Vojislav Kostunica, would give up his current post for the new one if he defeats ultranationalist rival Vojislav Seselj.

Gen. Ne Win, who died under house arrest, was the dictator of Burma (now Myanmar) from 1962 to 1988, during which the South Asian nation slid from prosperity into poverty. In his 90s, he was confined by the current government to his villa with members of his family, who are accused of plotting a coup to return him to power. The government denied him the military honors befitting his former status.

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