World

By an overwhelming margin, Iran's parliament voted to order the government to cut off UN inspections of its nuclear facilities should its case be referred to the Security Council. The measure is expected to be ratified by the Guardian Council, Iran's constitutional watchdog. Against that backdrop, the government rejected a finding by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency that it had received blueprints for building nuclear weapons from Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, calling the report "baseless."

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon authorized a key aide to discuss the formation of a new political party with members of parliament, the Jerusalem Post reported. The newspaper said the move means Sharon has decided to quit the ruling Likud movement, quoting the aide as telling the lawmakers that he no longer believes he can work with its dissidents and wants to avoid a primary election against his chief rival, ex-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "Something dramatic" would have to happen for Sharon to remain in Likud, the Post reported.

The family of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi renounced him, writing to King Abdullah of Jordan, "We are innocent of him and all that emanates from him ... and we sever links with him until doomsday." The statement pledges homage "to your throne and to our precious Jordan," and analysts said it means that Zarqawi - a Jordanian of Palestinian birth - no longer enjoys the protection of his tribe. Zarqawi appeared to be taken aback by the backlash among Jordanians against the terrorist bombings that killed 60 people in three Amman hotels earlier this month, offering a videotaped apology and attempting to explain that the attacks were not aimed at the victims. But he also vowed to kill the king, who is widely popular among Jordanians. Last Friday, an estimated 100,000 people turned out in Amman to protest against the terrorist leader.

For the first time in 58 years, the heavily militarized border between India and Pakistan opened to allow families to reunite after the devastating Kashmiri earthquake. Although the opening is temporary, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he believed the temblor and its aftermath offer the "opportunity of a lifetime" for the nuclear rivals to resolve their six-decade dispute over Kashmir. He also thanked donors from more than 40 nations for pledging $5.8 billion over the weekend to help Pakistan "in this hour of need." But critics warned that many of the pledges will be loans that will only heap more debt on the impoverished country.

If the size of last-minute campaign rallies is any indication, the government of Kenya appears headed for defeat in Monday's national referendum on the proposed new constitution. Opponents far outnumbered supporters at dueling demonstrations Saturday in the capital, Nairobi. Analysts say such turnouts there often reflect the political views of the rest of the country. Among other points, the proposed charter would mandate the new post of prime minister, ban same-sex marriage, and declare that life begins at conception. At least seven people have died in prevote violence.

Saying, "War is not my method," Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse took the oath of office as president of Sri Lanka after last week's national election. But while pledging to seek new negotiations with "all those who have a stake in the solution of the national question" - a reference to the Tamil separatist movement - he said dividing the country is not the answer. Rajapakse narrowly defeated opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, who favors granting the Tamils increased autonomy. Separatist rebels, who intimidated many of their fellow Tamils into boycotting the election, said there is no room for discussion of "a federal solution" to the matter. (For a more complete report on Sri Lanka, see csmonitor.com.)

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