World

A day after complaining to the UN about threatening American language, Iranian leaders said their first move after any "evil" act against them by the Bush administration would be to attack Israel. They also announced the discovery of new uranium deposits to be used in their nuclear program. But while professing to be worried about a possible US attack, they said they'd been assured officially that Russia and China would vote to block the imposition of sanctions by the UN Security Council. Both have extensive interests in Iran's nuclear or oil sectors. Meanwhile, those two governments, plus the US, Britain, Germany, and France were meeting in Paris to discuss a "significant Security Council response" to Iran's defiance on uranium enrichment.

Bypassing Hamas, the prime minister-designate of Israel plans to meet privately with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a government source in Jerusalem said. The get-together would come after Ehud Olmert visits Washington later this month and would be the first with Abbas by an Israeli leader since Ariel Sharon met him in Egypt in February 2005. Abbas has urged such talks, but Israel previously refused, arguing the impracticality of discussions with a Palestinian government that has two heads. Olmert, who is to be sworn in Thursday, plans to vacate much of the West Bank by 2010, copying Sharon's pullout from the Gaza Strip last summer.

Heavily armed troops guarded the natural gas fields and oil refineries in Bolivia Tuesday after leftist President Evo Morales ordered the nationalization of the vital energy sector. He said foreign-owned oil and gas giants such as Repsol of Spain, Total of France, and Brazil's Petrobras would be evicted unless they agree to new contracts surrendering the majority of their revenues and oversight of production to the state. Morales campaigned last year on a promise to win more benefits for the nation's impoverished people from the oil and gas sector.

Hundreds of soldiers, rushed by India's government to a remote area of Kashmir, were in an intensive manhunt for the suspected Muslim militants who killed 35 Hindu residents in separate incidents over the past three days. Although the region is rugged, electronic surveillance and fencing along the line of separation between Kashmir's Indian and Pakistani zones made one commander optimistic that "these militants [can't] run away." No Islamist rebel group based in Kashmir has claimed responsibility for the attacks. Some moderate separatist leaders from the disputed state are scheduled to meet Wednesday and again May 25 with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the future of the region.

Barring unexpected developments, the ruling Labour Party appears headed for a drubbing Wednesday in local elections across Britain. Analysts said such an outcome would reflect voter unhappiness at the personal and political woes engulfing senior aides to Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair has resisted pressure to reshuffle the cabinet despite an admission by his deputy, John Prescott, of an extramarital affair and a scandal involving Home Secretary Charles Clarke. Clarke waited three weeks to admit that hundreds of foreign felons had been freed from prison without being considered for deportation. Some have since committed new crimes. Blair's own popularity rating is at an all-time low.

Despite heated criticism from political leaders in the US, Mexican President Vicente Fox will sign a new law that removes criminal penalties for possession of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and other drugs in small amounts, aides said. Under it, persons caught with such drugs can only be referred to one of Mexico's few treatment programs or have their names added to a registry of "addicts." Mexico is a major transit corridor for the flow of illegal drugs into the US, and some politicans have warned that the new law will only make more of them available in American cities.

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