World

UN weapons inspectors in Iraq have found "no smoking guns" in their search for banned programs despite widening sweeps, chief inspector Hans Blix said before a briefing to the Security Council. Still, Iraq's declaration of its weapons programs "failed to answer a great many questions," Blix added. He is due to present a final assessment Jan. 27.

North Korea accepted an invitation from South Korea for cabinet-level talks, at which the South is expected to press Pyonyang to abandon its nuclear program. The meeting, to begin Jan. 21 in Seoul, would mark the highest-level contact since the North confirmed it was trying to develop nuclear weapons last fall. There was no response, however, to the Bush administration's stated willingness to renew dialogue.

Two Arab legislators may run in Israel's Jan. 28 elections, the Supreme Court ruled. Azmi Bishara and Ahmed Tobi were disqualified last week by the election commission. Three opinion polls, meanwhile, indicated that a corruption scandal has reduced the number of seats Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud Party is expected to win from more than 40 seats to 30 or fewer in the 120-seat parliament.

Marathon talks aimed at averting a strike by 2.8 million public workers continued in Potsdam, Germany, between government and union negotiators. The threatened strike by firefighters, garbage collectors, and other workers represented by the union Verdi would be the biggest since 1992 and could push the country back into recession, economists said.

Scattered clashes erupted during a fourth day of protests in Indonesia against price increases for telephone and electricity services and fuel. Two demonstrators were reported wounded when police fired to disperse a crowd in Karawang, 60 miles east of Jakarta. In the capital, riot officers used batons against 1,000 demonstrators outside the State Palace demanding the removal of President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Heavy fog, not terrorism, appeared to be responsible for the crash of a Turkish Airlines jet Wednesday, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said. The flight from Istanbul fell short of the runway in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, killing 75 people and injuring five others. On Thursday, two Turkish F-4 military jets collided during a training mission, killing all four crew members.

Spain's first lady, Ana Botella, announced plans to run for City Council in Madrid in May. Botella, the wife of Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, has never held elected office.

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