World

Iran sought to reassure the UN's nuclear watchdog that it would keep its commitments to the nonproliferation treaty even if referred to the Security Council for possible sanctions. In meetings of the International Atomic Energy Agency Wednesday in Vienna, the US pressured its fellow board members to do their "duty" and refer Iran to the council, as demanded by the European Union. But Russia, which also sits on the IAEA board, is building a nuclear reactor for Iran, and holds veto power in the Security Council, remained opposed to a referral.

Chancelor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democratic Party was negotiating with its ex-coalition partner, the Greens, on forming a new German government. But such a grouping would work only if the Free Democrats, a pro-business party, also joined, and the latter were refusing even to discuss the possibility. Meanwhile, the Greens flatly rejected the idea of joining opposition leader Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats in a coalition, citing major differences on tax policy, nuclear energy, and admitting Turkey to the European Union. Parliament must convene by Oct. 18 and if it fails in three rounds of voting to certify a winner, President Horst Koehler may appoint a minority government.

Experts from around the world on health and agriculture were gathering in Indonesia's capital to help cope with what the government called a potential epidemic of bird flu after two more people suspected of contracting the virus died. Nine others were admitted to a Jakarta hospital that specializes in the treatment of infectious diseases, one of 44 under orders to accept such cases. The government also reversed course and said it would have no problem funding the slaughter of poultry flocks in areas with a high intensity of bird flu outbreaks, and its director of animal health told news agencies she'd been fired for failing to control their spread. Besides Indonesia, the virus is blamed for 44 deaths in Vietnam, 12 in Thailand, and 4 in Cambodia.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the European Union will not have a constitution "for at least the next two or three years," its senior leader said. Jose Manuel Barroso told a news conference in Brussels that the proposed charter, which was rejected earlier this year in referenda in France and the Netherlands, has lost too much momentum to recover "in the immediate future." He urged the 25 member states to resist "paralysis" and focus instead on practical progress.

The announced plan by a TV show host in the Netherlands to smoke heroin on the air Oct. 10 was greeted by dismay, and the ruling Christian Democrat Party said it would ask the Justice Ministry whether the act could be prosecuted. The program in question deals with drugs, sex, and other subjects affecting the lives of young viewers. It is broadcast late at night. Marijuana is sold and used openly in the Netherlands, but possession of heroin is illegal. Police, however, usually lack the resources to enforce the law.

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