World

Without giving an exact amount, Japan agreed to waive "the vast majority" of Iraq's debt, which with late charges totals more than $7 billion, as long as other international creditors in the so-called Paris Club do so as well. China "will consider" a similar move, Premier Wen Jiabao said. The announcements followed separate meetings between US envoy James Baker and respective leaders in Tokyo and Beijing. To support postwar reconstruction efforts, the Bush administration is seeking debt relief for Iraq, which owes $40 billion to the Paris Club and $80 billion to fellow Arab states.

The head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency praised Libya's "cooperation" and "openness" after leading inspections at four sites. The visits show Muammar Qaddafi's regime was in "the very initial stages" of a program to develop enriched uranium for nuclear weapons before recently deciding to scrap it, Mohamed ElBaradei said, wrapping up a visit to Tripoli. Libya also agreed to snap inspections by International Atomic Energy Agency teams, effective immediately, ElBaradei said.

The ancient Iranian city of Bam will be rebuilt, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed while touring damage from the devastating Dec. 26 earthquake. Strong aftershocks continued to rattle residents and to collapse the few remaining buildings in the city, located some 600 miles southeast of the capital, Tehran. Remains of more than 25,000 people have been recovered so far, and some officials say the death toll could reach 40,000.

Guatemalans chose conservative businessman Oscar Berger as their next president in a runoff election Sunday. Nearly complete returns showed Berger won 54 percent of the vote, compared with 46 percent for leftist candidate Alvaro Colom.

Initial returns from Serbia's parliamentary elections showed the Radical Party of jailed war crimes suspect Vojislav Seselj winning the most seats, as expected. However, the party's 28 percent support was well short of the majority needed to form a government. Three main reform parties had a combined 42 percent of the vote, but analysts said it was unclear if they could overcome sharp differences to forge an administration.

A World Health Organization (WHO) team was evaluating a suspected SARS case in southern China, the first since July. If confirmed, the four WHO health experts also will try to determine how the man from Guangdong province, where the disease first emerged in 2002, contracted the virus. The patient's apartment complex is being disinfected and more than 40 people who've been in contact with him are in quarantine, state media said. None has shown signs of the illness.

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