Iran almost certainly will speed up steps aimed at defying the newly approved sanctions against its nuclear program, analysts said – starting with the installation of 3,000 new centrifuges for enriching uranium. The government angrily rejected the imposition of the measures, which passed the UN Security Council unanimously last Saturday, a move that hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it will regret. Parliament also agreed to an urgent vote on authorizing the government to "revise" its cooperation with the UN by limiting inspections of the nuclear facilities even more than is already permitted. That would hobble the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was asked by the Security Council to report in 60 days on the extent of Iranian nuclear activity.
Once his term as president ends, Vladimir Putin "will find a way" to remain the leader of Russia, a senior government official told a Moscow newspaper last weekend. Sergei Stepashin, a former prime minister, said Putin could model his future after that of the late Deng Xiaoping, who retained behind-the-scenes power in China after retiring as premier in the 1990s. Putin is bound by the Constitution to step down after his term ends in 2008 and has said he'll abide by its terms, although his public approval ratings hover near 80 percent and supporters repeatedly have looked for loopholes in the law that might allow him to remain in office.
UN officials were reacting cautiously to the announcement by Sudan's government that it will meet Tuesday to implement the first phase of a joint peacekeeping force for volatile Darfur Province. The plan calls for UN military advisers, police, and civilian consultants to work with what President Omar al-Bashir insists must be the main player in the region: troops from African Union countries. After two more phases, the force in Darfur is intended to grow to 17,300 soldiers, plus police units. But Sudanese officials say that details of the final two phases still must be negotiated.
Nominations are expected to be submitted Tuesday by the 14-party opposition alliance for next month's national election in Bangladesh. In an about-face last weekend, the Awami League and its allies called off their boycott of the voting after the caretaker government agreed to implement a series of demands, among them extending the deadline for filing candidacies for seats in parliament. The alliance also organized weeks of disruptive strikes that resulted in at least 35 deaths, thousands of injuries, and millions of dollars in losses each day to business.
The number of deaths was nearing 100 from three days of relentless rains across Indonesia and Malaysia, and authorities said dozens of others were missing and almost 200,000 more had been forced to flee their homes because of flooding. Only the roofs of many residences were visible on Indonesia's Sumatra island. The flooding in some areas was the worst in living memory, but forecasters predicted improvement in the weather this week.
There will be no year-end strike in Nepal to protest the appointment of ambassadors by the interim government, the nation's communist rebel movement announced. The two-day strike was to begin Sunday. Reports said the rebels, who'd called it last week, backed off after Prime Minister B.P. Koirala's government agreed to put the appointments on hold. Among the appointees is a niece of the prime minister, who was named as envoy to India. The communists, who are to join the government once their weapons are placed in storage, were angered because they were not consulted about the appointments.