World

Conflicting statements about the leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq appeared on the Internet on Thursday following reports that its chief, Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had been wounded. A statement in the name of Al Qaeda Organisation for Holy War in Iraq was posted on an Islamist website saying the group had appointed a deputy to fill in for Zarqawi, but a later statement purportedly from a group spokesman swiftly denied it. Yasser al-Serri, an Islamist activist based in London who monitors websites used by militants, said statements from spokesman Abu Maysarah al-Iraqi were more credible and the earlier posting was questionable even though it bore Al Qaeda's signature.

The head of Bolivia's armed forces denied Wednesday that the military was preparing for a coup as the government vowed to prosecute two officers who called for the ouster of President Carlos Mesa. Rumors of a coup have persisted as protests convulse South America's poorest nation. Leftist peasant groups are calling for a new constitution and the nationalization of natural gas reserves, while provinces rich in resources demand more regional autonomy.

The World Trade Organisation, at a meeting at its headquarters in Geneva, agreed on Thursday to start membership negotiations with Iran after the US dropped a long-standing veto. The US decision appeared to be the first tangible reward for Iran after it agreed the day before to maintain its suspension of all nuclear activities in a deal with the European Union.

Israel is launching a $280 million program aimed at convincing thousands of young Jewish people to immigrate to Israel in the next five years, officials said Thursday. The program would allow people between 18 and 30 years old to remain in Israel for a year on a tourist visa. During that time, the participants will be offered access to university classes and other programs.

The armies of India and China, which fought a border war four decades ago, plan to hold unprecedented joint counter- terrorism and peacekeeping training programs, the Indian Army chief said on Thursday.

A British youth, identified only as "W" for legal reasons, launched a High Court challenge Thursday against London's Metropolitan Police and a town center curfew on under-16s, one of the cornerstones of Prime Minister Tony Blair's crackdown on antisocial behavior.

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