World

Billionaire former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and nine other people were killed in the explosion of a car bomb in Beirut, Lebanon - perhaps because he recently had voiced support for forces opposed to the occupation of his country by about 14,000 Syrian troops. The blast also wounded 100 others and caused massive property damage. Syrian President Bashar Assad condemned it as a "horrible criminal action," but a previously unheard-of group calling itself Support and Jihad in Syria and Lebanon claimed responsibility and vowed more "martyrdom operations." Lebanon's most prominent exile, ex-Army chief Michel Aoun, blamed Assad's government for the murder, along with what he called the "feeble regime" it installed in Beirut.

Free rein to inspect "wherever they wish and any time they want" was offered to the International Atomic Energy Agency by Iran's government, complaining that the Bush administration has been engaging in "psychological war" against it. Foreign Minister Kamel Kharrazi said his country has no intention of developing nuclear warheads and is a "promoter of the elimination" of such weapons." The US has not ruled out a military attack if diplomacy fails to persuade Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear technology.

Reclusive North Korea has yet to conduct a nuclear weapons test, senior South Korean officials said, suggesting that the Pyongyang government may be bluffing about having warheads. They called for resumption of high-level discussions with the North as soon as possible. North Korea boasted last week that it has warheads and is suspending indefinitely participation in six-nation talks on suspension of its nuclear program.

Another demonstrator was shot to death by police in Togo's capital, the fourth in three days as antigovernment sentiment builds. The Interior Ministry said the victim had tried to take away an officer's gun, the same rationale cited for the earlier shootings. A stay-at-home protest called by opponents of Army-installed President Faure Gnassingbe was largely unsuccessful, but organizers vowed "stiffer resistance" if unarmed people continue to be fired on. Meanwhile, Nigeria, which accounts for a large minority in Togo, reserved the right to use force if those in it are "in any way harmed."

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