World

As casualties mounted in another day of violence in Iraq's Sunni triangle, political leaders held intensive meetings to try to form a national unity government. President Jalal Talabani said he hoped that "we form it by the end of the month." But prospects did not appear bright, even though Sunni and Kurdish leaders have stopped calling for Shiite Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's resignation. Parliament is scheduled for its first meeting Thursday.

A briefing was expected for UN Security Council members Tuesday on a proposed response to Iran's nuclear program. But the statement, drafted by the US, Britain, and France and calling on Iran to halt the enrichment of uranium, appeared unlikely to be endorsed by China and Russia. Both have veto powers in the council as well as large investments in Iran. Chinese diplomats say they favor continued negotiations between Iran and Russia on the latter's proposal to serve as a proxy in uranium enrichment. Those talks resumed in Moscow, but Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the "[nuclear] path is irreversible" and any retreat from it would force a retreat in other areas also.

New doubts arose Tuesday about whether the funeral of ex-dictator Slobodan Milosevic would take place in the capital of the former Yugoslavia after all. His son, Marko Milosevic, told reporters that "Belgrade authorities don't allow [it]," apparently out of concern that the ceremony could tempt Serbian nationalists to try to regain power. In response, Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica said "a funeral is a civilized act that should be respected." He did not say whether one would be held in Belgrade, analysts noted. Milosevic's widow, Mirjana Markovic, is charged with abuses of power during his rule, and it was unclear whether she'd travel from Moscow, her current home, to attend a memorial. If she does, her passport will be seized, authorities said, but she "will not be taken into custody."

The polls opened six days ahead of schedule for voters in Belarus' presidential election. The election isn't until Sunday, but authorities defended the move because it "is practiced all over the world." The ex-Soviet republic is widely viewed as Europe's last dictatorship, and critics said the early balloting only gives incumbent Alexander Lukashenko another way to rig the outcome. His No. 1 rival, Alexander Milinkevich, urged Belarussians not to be lured into voting ahead of time. Meanwhile, three newspapers that were critical of Lukashenko suspended operations. Their publisher said its contracts with them were canceled for "economic and political" reasons. The papers had been printed in Russia because Belarus' state-owned presses refused to do business with them.

Striking for the second time in three weeks, communist rebels hijacked a train in eastern India and ambushed a police patrol in the western state of Maharashtra, prompting what the government called anti-insurgency measures. The engineer of the train and a guard were beaten, but passengers were spared any harm. The rebels fled before police could respond, and local officials said the seizure appeared aimed at proving "that they could do such a thing." In the other incident, nine police were hurt when the rebels detonated a land mine under their vehicles and then fired on them. On Feb. 28, the rebels ambushed a convoy of trucks, killing 24 people.

His own approval rating at a low ebb, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun accepted the resignation of the nation's prime minister for indulging a passion for golf rather than attending to domestic woes. Lee Hae-chan had been given more power than his predecessors and was responsible for implementing many of Roh's policies. But he was under pressure to quit after putting golf ahead of the government's response to a national railway strike, massive flooding, and finding enough manpower to fight a forest fire.

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