Voters turned out in force for Afghanistan's historic legislative election despite scattered incidents of violence and threats of other retaliation. Taliban remnants had urged a boycott of the election but pledged not to attack civilians en route to vote, although they warned of assaults on security forces. As many as 15 people died, however, in roadside bombings and other attacks. Still, the Interior Ministry said the voting "went very well - beyond our expectations." More than 5,800 candidates were seeking seats in the National Assembly or provincial councils.Skip to next paragraph
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Western governments reacted with dismay to Iran's "unhelpful" and "very aggressive" refusal to halt activity in its nuclear program that could lead to the building of warheads. But diplomats accredited to the International Atomic Energy Agency said they thought the Iranian government might offer new concessions this week in a last-ditch attempt to prevent being referred to the UN Security Council for the possible imposition of sanctions. In a news conference following his speech to the General Assembly over the weekend, however, new Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad insisted his country would go ahead with making the fuel needed for nuclear weapons, saying, "We're not going to cave in to the excessive demands of certain powers" - a reference to the US and European governments. Later, another Iranian official said his government would "make our decision to correspond to that" if it is referred to the Security Council.
One last meeting was scheduled for Monday in the negotiations over communist North Korea's nuclear program after the six parties agreed to keep talking despite their deadlock. The North's delegates were continuing to insist on the right to a civilian atomic energy system that would be in place before any dismantling of their weapons program. Host China offered a compromise that would allow North Korea to keep a civilian program after it surrenders its weapons, although other participants indicated they were bothered by some of the wording of the proposal.
By the narrowest of margins - one seat in parliament - New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and her Labour Party won reelection over the weekend and quickly opened negotiations with minor parties on forming a coalition government. The election was fought largely over the losing National Party's proposals to scrap special programs for the ethnic Maori community and end the 20-year-old declaration of a nuclear-free zone to help win a favorable trade deal with the US.