World

Heightened security marked New Year's Eve celebrations in many major cities:

• Sydney, Australia, had a record police presence to deter possible terrorist attacks in the wake of the nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia, in October that killed 196 people, 88 of them Australians. Indonesia, meanwhile, deployed 200,000 police in its capital, Jakarta.

• Britain's Scotland Yard put its antiterrorist operatives on high alert and police closed off Trafalgar Square while advising partyers to avoid other central areas of London, Sky News reported.

• And in Malaysia, riot police joined patrol officers at key intersections of Kuala Lumpur, where 10 skydivers were to jump simultaneously from the Petronas Twin Towers, the world's tallest buildings, at midnight.

There can be no argument for a US-led military strike against Iraq before UN weapons inspectors present their findings Jan. 27, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told Israel's Army Radio. So far, Annan said, Baghdad is cooperating with Security Council demands. The inspectors visited at least eight sites Dec. 31, including a military base where army officers allegedly are trained in chemical warfare. Meanwhile, the Washington Times reported that US intelligence officials believe Iraq is hiding at least two weapons scientists in Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces. The paper said there are also signs that the military recently moved chemical and biological weapons materials to underground storage sites unknown to inspectors.

Hours after expelling two UN nuclear inspectors, North Korea accused the US of "stepping up preparations for a war" in a commentary in its main newspaper, and Pyongyang's ambassador to Moscow said his country can no longer fulfill its obligations under a nuclear nonproliferation treaty due to US threats. The inspectors had been monitoring a plant capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, and are due to present a report on their findings Jan. 6.

An explosion in the southern Philippines left at least four people dead and 26 others injured, police and military officials said. The blast went off in the town of Tacurong on Mindanao island. It was the latest in a series of bombs in the past two weeks that have killed 30 people and injured dozens more in the region. Authorities blame the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but the Muslim separatist group has denied responsibility.

Street protests against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez could turn "at any given moment to a violent situation," labor leader Carlos Ortega warned Dec. 31, a day after clashes between Chávez supporters and opponents in several cities. The protests and accompanying strike by oil workers have cost the country more than $2 billion in the past month, Venezuela's oil minister said.

A Royal Australian Air Force plane was headed for three South Pacific islands hit by a massive storm. The government of the Solomon Islands, an 80-island chain, requested the flyover. It's been unable to contact the estimated 3,000 residents on Tikopia, Fataka, and Anuta since Cyclone Zoe swept through Sunday packing 200 m.p.h. winds.

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