World

Amid reports that Israeli intelligence agents are working inside Iran to pinpoint the sites where uranium is being enriched, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency meets Monday for further discussions on the Tehran government's nuclear ambitions. The latter warned again Sunday that it will resume full-scale enrichment if the UN Security Council takes up the matter for the possible imposition of sanctions. Iran also complained that the US exercises a "double standard" in trying to show the Tehran government in a bad light while concluding a nuclear deal favorable to India, which is not a signatory to the Nonproliferation Treaty. The Sunday Times (London) reported that the Israeli agents operate from a heavily guarded base in northern Iraq "with the approval of the Americans."

Despite their friendship of 25 years, President Jalal Talabani joined the ranks of Iraqis calling for Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to abandon his bid for a new term. Behind the scenes over the weekend, two leading members of al-Jaafari's political party visited Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leading Shiite spiritual leader, to seek his endorsement. But a spokesman for al-Sistani disputed claims that he had honored their request. Iraq's parliament still hasn't met since the Dec. 15 election because of the snarl over forming a new government.

At least 46 more Islamist militants were killed by Pakistani Army units Saturday along the border with Afghanistan, 200 miles from where President Bush was on an official state visit to discuss security concerns. The deaths more than double the number of militants who were killed in fighting earlier in the week before Bush's arrival. But reports were not precise, and intelligence sources said they'd intercepted radio communications between the militants suggesting that 80 or more of them had died.

More than $40 billion will be spent in the new budget year to try to raise the living standards of an increasingly restive countryside, Chinese Premier Wen Jibao told the opening session of the National People's Congress. He promised that the funding would go to schools, hospitals, crop subsidies, and other programs. Government statistics indicate there were 87,000 "incidents of discontent" in rural China last year, and Wen said "new problems have arisen that cannot be ignored." At the same time, China announced a 14.7 percent rise in military spending, making this at least the 12th straight year of double-digit increases.

An estimated 30,000 people were demonstrating Sunday in another round of protests in Thailand's capital for the resignation of Prime Minister Thak-sin Shinawatra, and a National Intelligence Agency source said he expected the crowd to double in size. An organizer vowed that the protesters would remain encamped at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok until Thak-sin quits. But the prime minister warned that "if violence or chaos occurs, state authorities will take legal action." Thak- sin's residence was being guarded by hundreds of heavily armed police, backed up by water cannon. Thaksin has offered to quit if he wins fewer than half the votes in the April 2 election he has called to try to end the political crisis. Opposition parties, however, say they'll boycott the vote.

Only two weeks' worth of wheat is left in economically troubled Zimbabwe, and the government has put security forces on alert against the possibility of protests by consumers, the BBC reported. It said the price of a loaf of bread has risen 30 percent in the past week and cited the Agence France-Presse news agency as saying the nation's leading milling companies have all but stopped production because they're being allotted 200 fewer tons of wheat per week than previously by the Grain Marketing Board. The next harvest isn't due until May.

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