World

At least a half-dozen Iraqi scientists have been encouraged to submit to private interviews with UN weapons inspectors, but all refused without the presence of President Saddam Hussein's representatives, the Baghdad government said. The government's liaison to the inspection teams told journalists: "We did our best." The Bush administration maintains that the Iraqi scientists could provide leads on forbidden weapons programs but wouldn't speak candidly in interviews if government officials listen in.

A civil servant in his mid-20s confessed to the ambush of two Americans in Kuwait earlier this week, and authorities said they found the gun he used. They also said he "adopts the thought of [the] Al Qaeda organization" and was not working alone. The suspect was arrested as he tried to flee to neighboring Saudi Arabia and was being interrogated by Kuwaiti authorities. The attack Tuesday killed a civilian defense contractor and seriously wounded another.

Siding with controversial President Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's Supreme Court dashed the hopes of his opponents for a national referendum next month on his rule. Although the vote would have been nonbinding - and petitions seeking it bore more than the required minimum number of signatures - the court postponed it indefinitely, pending a detemination of whether it would be legal. Reports said the ruling stunned opposition leaders.

Difficult negotiations appeared necessary to form a new coalition government in the Netherlands after the centrist Christian Democrats emerged with a narrow victory in Wednesday's national election. Voters gave them a 44-to-42-seat edge over the Labor Party. The outcome means that Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende will remain in office. But he quickly ruled out another alliance with Pim Fortuyn's List, the nationalist party whose internal squabbling last year caused the collapse of his government after only 87 days in power.

Two strong aftershocks were felt in the area of western and central Mexico where an earthquake struck Tuesday, killing at least 29 people and reportedly injuring 300 others. Another 10,000 were left homeless by the 7.8 magnitude temblor. President Vicente Fox toured the scene Wednesday, declaring an official emergency and promising the fastest possible aid to victims.

Eighty-seven more deaths were reported in India and Bangladesh Wednesday as temperatures across South Asia hovered just above freezing, and fuel for home-heating appeared plentiful only on the black market at high prices. In all, the cold that has gripped the region since mid-December is blamed for almost 1,800 fatalities.

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