World

In an abrupt about-face, Shiites on Iraq's Governing Coalition said they'd sign the interim constitution Monday "as it stands." The announcement came after consultations with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader whose objection to parts of the document caused a refusal to ink it last Friday. The charter is a key to the planned handover to Iraqis in June of responsibility for their own affairs.

The time has come for the UN to finish its 13-month investigation of Iran's nuclear program, a senior official Tehran government official said. Hasan Rowhani, who heads the National Security Council, said although "this is very difficult for the world to accept," Iran deserves to be recognized as having the right to develop nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. The US accuses Iran of having a secret weapons program and wants the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency to declare it in noncompliance with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

At least nine Hamas gunmen died in a firefight with Israeli soldiers in raids on two Gaza Strip refugee camps Sunday. Five other Palestinians also were killed, and 72 more were hurt. The raids came hours after a bold attempt by Palestinians - in jeeps disguised with Israeli military markings - to attack the vital Eretz crossing between Gaza and Israel. The Palestinians all were killed. No Israeli casualties were reported in any of the clashes.

Heavily armed US marines and other foreign troops were on guard in Haiti's capital Sunday to try to keep bitter supporters of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and thousands of people jubilant at his ouster from clashing. Despite pledges last week to disarm and return to his Cap-Haitien base, the leader of the rebels who forced Aristide out was at the front of the march and his followers had yet to surrender their weapons. The rebels said they wouldn't disarm until Aristide's supporters did.

With the possible end of leftist rule in the balance, Greeks voted Sunday for a new government. The Socialist Party, which has ruled for 20 of the past 23 years, was counting on new leader George Papandreou to help it overcome a perception of corruption and of responsibility for Summer Olympic Games preparations being well behind schedule. The opposition New Democracy Party enjoyed an early lead in opinion polls, but that had narrowed to as little as one percentage point on the eve of the vote.

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