World

Members of the new Hamas-led cabinet met in emergency session Sunday to discuss Israeli counterattacks on rocket-launching sites in the Gaza Strip. Fifteen Palestinians have died since Friday in the Israeli strikes, but political leaders of Islamic Jihad said they'd overruled a decision by lower- ranking members to suspend the launching of rockets into Israel. Meanwhile, the Palestinian finance minister said his government is $1.3 billion in debt and appears unable to pay the 140,000 people it employs.

Five UN nuclear exports flew to Iran and began the first inspections of uranium-enrichment facilities there since the Islamic republic suspended them in mid- February. The inspectors are due to be joined later by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamad ElBaradei, who is to report on their findings to the UN Security Council. Iran's leaders said Sunday it would be a "big mistake" to assume that the Security Council could force abandonment of the enrichment program.

Expectations were low for any breakthrough as the six parties to talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons program prepared for Monday's closed meeting in Tokyo. Rival South Korea's senior delegate left preliminary discussions Sunday, saying the North "seems to be doing a lot of hard thinking about returning to the six-way talks." But he saw little hope of productive discussions between the North and US negotiators. Japan's foreign minister added, "Nothing will move forward unless North Korea takes part in the ... talks again." But the North's defense chief accused the US of paying only lip service to the discussions while making his nation the target for a "preemptive attack."

New proposals for ending the row in France over the controversial employment law affecting young people are to be presented to President Jacques Chirac Monday. In an apparent snub to Prime Minister Domin-ique de Villepin, Chirac assigned the job of conferring with critics of the new law to members of the ruling party in parliament. Two Paris newspapers reported that the proposals could have been ready Friday but for arguing over them between de Villepin, who refuses to withdraw the measure, and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Meanwhile, some of the fury of the nationwide protests against it appeared to dissipate as students began their spring break.

Riot police beat back a protest by thousands of people in Nepal's capital and other cities Sunday, but opponents of unpopular King Gyenendra vowed that demonstrations would continue "indefinitely." At least two protesters died after being fired upon by security forces, but the government's home minister said opponents of the king were using guns, too. As many as 25,000 people defied a curfew and an order authorizing police to shoot to kill Saturday, setting fire to government buildings in the city of Bharatpur. Sunday was to be the end of a general strike, but one organizer said, "We have to get democracy at any cost, and we will."

The latest attack on the US ambassador to Venezuela was condemned by the latter's government as "inexcusable." But it warned the Bush administration not to retaliate by restricting the activities of its representative in Washington. That "would activate reciprocal actions on our part, without a doubt," Acting Foreign Minister Alcides Rondon said. The third incident involving Ambassador William Brownfield in three weeks happened Friday when supporters of leftist President Hugo Chávez pounded on the diplomat's car after he'd donated baseball equipment to a youth league, pelted it with eggs and tomatoes, and chased it for miles on motorcycles. "There are places." Rondon said, "where the presence of some people is not welcome."

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