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By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn / November 30, 2006



Relations deteriorated further between the European Union and the government of Turkey, with the recommendation that membership talks with the Muslim-majority nation be suspended "partially." Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan blasted the move as "unacceptable," and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer vetoed legislation – required by the EU – that would strengthen the property rights of non-Muslim minorities. The recommendation is not final; the bloc's 25 leaders must still vote on it at their Dec. 14-15 summit.

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Without offering details, state news agencies in Iran said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would release an open letter to the American people Wednesday through the nation's ambassador to the UN. Analysts said such a move would be seen as an attempt to go over the heads of the Bush administration. In May, the hard-line leader made headlines by sending a rambling, 18-page letter to President Bush – the first official communication with a US administration since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. It contained no specific proposals and was criticized in Washington for not addressing Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program. Earlier this month, Ahmadinejad told reporters in Iran that "many American people asked me to talk to them in order to explain the views" of his government.

Amid growing suspicions over the poisoning death last week of a former Russian spy in Britain, onetime Premier Yegor Gaidar was rushed to a Moscow hospital in intensive care from a conference in Ireland. Aides said there were no early indications of foul play, although London's Financial Times newspaper said it appeared he, too, had been poisoned. Gaidar's daughter, Maria, is a political activist and vociferous opponent of the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin. Anatoly Chubais, who served with Gaidar under President Boris Yeltsin and who himself was targeted for assassination last year, also linked his former colleague's illness to the death of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko and, earlier, the murder of journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politskovskaya.

Legislators brawled on the floor of Mexico's Congress Tuesday as opponents of President-elect Felipe Calderón opened their attempt to block his inauguration. The shoving, slapping, and kicking ultimately turned into a tense standoff for control of the Speaker's podium between members of Calderón's conservative National Action Party and leftists of defeated presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party. Calderón is scheduled to take his oath of office at the platform Friday, but López Obrador already has sworn himself in as the "legitimate" president.

Fidel Castro failed to appear at the kickoff of his own delayed 80th birthday celebration in Cuba Tuesday. He sent a message to invited guests from around the world that said he is not sufficiently recovered from major surgery in July to attend large gatherings. The five-day celebration was rescheduled from the week of Aug. 13 to coincide with Saturday's 50th anniversary of his arrival by boat to launch the communist revolution in Cuba. There was speculation that he still might put in a brief appearance Saturday, although he has been seen only in TV footage and in still photographs since his surgery. Opponents claim he is terminally ill.

Flares lit up the sky over Fiji's capital Wednesday and soldiers in battle gear set up checkpoints in what they said was a training exercise in case of "intervention" by foreign forces. But analysts noted that the order for the drill came after talks between feuding Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and military chief Frank Bainimarama failed to produce a breakthrough on their differences. The exercise also followed the crash of an Australian helicopter attempting to land on a warship offshore. Bainimar-ama has given Qarase two weeks to "clean up" Fiji's government and reportedly is angry that regional governments have been seeking diplomatic solutions to the situation.

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