World

Despite reports to the contrary, Iranian leaders denied twice over the weekend that they are withdrawing foreign currency reserves from banks in Europe. The Foreign Ministry also urged Britain, France, and Germany again to return to negotiations over Iran's nuclear ambitions, saying such talks are the only way to halt the escalating standoff with Western governments. Those comments, however, contrasted with scornful denunciations of France and Israel, whose leaders suggested last week that a nuclear-armed Iran was unacceptable. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the comments of Israel's defense chief were a "childish game" and that the Jewish state would be making "a fatal mistake" if it attempted any use of military force. Israel bombed an unfinished nuclear reactor in neighboring Iraq in 1981. The spokesman also said French President Jacques Chirac had revealed "the covert intentions" of his government by saying that it could respond with a nuclear strike to any state-sponsored terrorist attack. The Iranian spokesman advised European powers "not to choose any path except dialogue" and said, "If there is retribution to be paid, that will include Europe."

Sending mixed signals about the future of relations with the US, new Bolivian President Evo Morales was to take his oath of office Sunday in the capital, La Paz. The first Indian chief of state had won election vowing to become the Bush administration's "worst nightmare." More recently, though, he said he'd try to have friendly relations with the US. On Saturday Morales held a widely publicized meeting at his home with Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, who wished him success and pledged support for his government. In his inaugural address, however, Morales, was expected to repeat calls for increasing state control over Bolivia's vast natural gas reserves and to "bend the hand of the empire" - a clear reference to the US.

Flags hung at half-staff and long lines of weeping Kosovo Albanians flocked to the home of President Ibrahim Rogova to pay their respects after learning of his death Saturday - four days before the scheduled start of negotiations on possible independence for the volatile province. His funeral was set for Thursday, and the critical talks were postponed until next month. Although legally part of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the UN since 1999 when bombing by NATO planes halted a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" by Serbian forces. Parliament in the heavily Albanian province has 90 days to choose a successor.

Supermarkets and restaurants in Japan were throwing out US beef after inspectors found spinal parts in a shipment of imported veal late Friday and a ban that had been lifted just six weeks ago was reimposed. The US Agriculture Department rushed a delegation to Tokyo to meet with their Japanese counterparts on the matter Monday, and Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick is scheduled to discuss it with senior members of Japan's cabinet. Japanese authorities consider spinal bone among the parts of cattle most at risk of containing so-called mad cow disease. The shipment in question was packed in New York and the company responsible was removed from the beef-export program, reports said.

Eight days after being freed from prison for his 1981 attempt to kill Pope John Paul II and other crimes, Mehmet Ali Agca was back behind bars. A prosecutor has yet to decide how much more time he must serve, but according to some speculation he could remain a prisoner until 2014. Agca did not resist when police arrived at the apartment in Istanbul, Turkey, where he was staying with a friend to rearrest him Friday after an appeals court unanimously overturned the lower-court ruling that led to his release. But he turned to TV cameras and proclaimed himself "the Messiah."

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