World

Interim Vice President Ibrahim al-Jaafari won the nomination of Iraq's Shiite political alliance for the post of prime minister and now needs only a two-thirds vote of the National Assembly to assume power. The vote has yet to be scheduled, but reports said it could come as soon as next week. Rival Ahmad Chalabi withdrew his candidacy, but hedged when asked whether he'd accept the deputy prime ministership.

In an about-face, the leader of communist North Korea said his government will return to multinational negotiations on disarmament after all. Earlier this month, Kim Jong Il announced a boycott of the talks and claimed it was necessary to "bolster" his nation's nuclear weapons program in the face of US hostility. But he said Tuesday, "We will go to the negotiating table anytime" if the US shows "trustworthy sincerity."

Claiming "very serious damage" to peace prospects in Northern Ireland, the British government said it will take away the annual $750,000 allowance for Sinn Fein's members of the House of Commons. Parliament must OK the penalty, but that seemed assured since some members wanted even stronger action. Sinn Fein is the political ally of the Irish Republican Army, which is blamed for the $50 million robbery of a Belfast bank Dec. 20.

In an apparent breakthrough, negotiators for the Muslim separatist rebels in Indonesia's Aceh Province said they'll drop their demand for independence. In return, a spokesman said, the rebels want some degree of self-rule because "we have come to terms" with the realization that the Indonesian government will not agree to independence. Tens of thousands of people have died in the rebels' almost 30-year drive for separatism.

Three Muslim imams will be expelled from the Netherlands for posing a danger to Dutch society, the government announced. They are accused of preaching "radical ideas" from their mosque and of offering "a safe haven for jihad." The Netherlands is one of the European countries most worried about such radicalism, and the move comes four months after the murder of a filmmaker in Amsterdam for his movie on the conditions to which Muslim men subject females.

Survivors pleaded for help after a powerful earthquake rocked southeastern Iran, killing at least 370 people. Thousands more were hurt or homeless, and heavy, cold rain was hampering relief efforts. The temblor was measured at 6.4, the strongest in Iran since a 6.6-magnitude quake killed 31,000 people in December 2003. Above, a couple grieve at the loss of their children and home.

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