World

Anxious neighbors of communist North Korea were looking for reasons to be optimistic despite the Pyongyang government's announcement that it will restart a nuclear power plant that's believed to have helped develop weapons. Urging calm, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said, "If you carefully read the North's statement, its stance of wanting a peaceful solution ... remains unchanged." South Korea's government expressed "deep regret and concern." A North Korean spokesman said decision affecting the reactor and construction of other suspended nuclear projects was made because of a desperate need for power.

The US was accused of "paranoia" and of wanting to redraw the map of the Middle East by Iraq's official Al-Thawra newspaper, reacting to the signing of a deal between Washington and the Qatar government to upgrade military bases where US troops are mustering for possible battle. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who signed for the US, said there was no question that Iraq had banned weapons and the only issue was whether it would accept that "the game is up" and choose to disarm unilaterally.

Expectations were low for the outcome of a key meeting in London of Iraqi opposition groups that likely would put together a transitional government should Saddam Hussein's regime fall. With the get-together scheduled to open today, observers said rivalries along ethnic, religious, and political lines were deepening and that the six main groups were disagreeing even on procedural matters.

Negotiators for embattled President Hugo Chávez and leaders of Venezuela's political opposition were to try again Thursday for an agreement on ending the 11-day-old general strike that is aimed at forcing him from power. But a senior mediator from the Organization of American States said the two sides remained far apart. Secretary-General Cáesar Gaviria urged them to "apply themselves" in the talks because "This country is taking too many risks." Chávez, meanwhile, insisted the government was close to breaking the oil industry's participation in the strike after soldiers seized two tankers, which were being loaded for export.

Senior leaders of the European Union were bristling at pressure from the US to offer membership terms to Muslim-dominated Turkey as they gathered in Denmark for a summit on expansion. The meeting is expected to end with an invitation to 10 states, most of them from the former Soviet bloc. But only France and Germany have proposed starting membership discussions with Turkey - and even then not until 2005, provided the Ankara government improves its human rights record. Turkey's government maintains it has met EU membership requirements. Host Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, and France's industry minister all said it was only the bloc's business when to start discussions with Turkey.

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