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World

January 24, 2007



Iran was warned by a senior US official Tuesday to back down in its perceived goal of dominating the Middle East. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, on a visit to Dubai, said the government in Tehran "is going to have to understand that [the US] will protect its interests if Iran seeks to confront us." He said the Islamic republic should "negotiate with us" over the future of its suspected nuclear weapons program or "face tougher sanctions in the [UN] Security Council" this winter.

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In tanks and troop trucks, the Ethiopian forces who helped to oust Somalia's Islamic Courts Union began returning home Tuesday. Plans call for them to be replaced "within a week" by an African Union peacekeeping force, the Interior Ministry said. Meanwhile, however, a government spokesman reacted angrily to the demand by the European Union that $19 million of the money pledged by donors for rebuilding Somalia be tied to a good-faith effort at reconciliation with the Islamist movement. Above, one Ethiopian Army unit prepares to depart at a ceremony at Mogadishu's airport.

As many as 17 sessions are expected to focus on climate change alone as political leaders, captains of industry, and entertainment celebrities open the annual World Economic Forum Wednesday at Davos, Switzerland. But amid intense security precautions, the participants also will hear discussions on the future of Iraq and on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. World Trade Organization chief Pascal Lamy suggested that the Davos meetings also could bring a resumption of the five-year-old global free-trade negotiations, which have been suspended since last July. Those negotiations broke down over the issue of subsidized farm exports.

Two more foreign nationals – an American and a Briton – were seized en route to work in Nigeria's delta region Tuesday by unidentified gunmen demanding ransom money, police said. Their kidnapping brings to 29 the number of foreigners currently held by militants. Earlier this week, police said six Fili-pino crewmen aboard an inbound cargo ship had been taken captive. But that total since has been raised to 24.

Embattled President Lansana Conte of Guinea appealed for national unity in the face of the most serious threat so far to his 23-year rule. Thirty-three people were reported dead and at least 150 others were wounded in Conakry, the capital, after government forces on Monday fired into a crowd of demonstrators demanding Conte's resignation. A strike aimed at toppling him has been under way since Jan. 10. Opponents say the president, who is reclusive and ill, no longer is fit to govern. But analysts say his overthrow or death could cause a power vacuum and, ultimately, civil war.

By a vote of 14 to 1, the World Court rejected an appeal by Uruguay's government Tuesday asking that roads and bridges in neighboring Argentina be ordered reopened. They are vital links to Uruguay's border states. The two countries are locked in a long-running dispute over construction of two paper mills on the Uruguayan side of the boundary. Argentina argues that discharges from the mills will damage the environment and its tourist industry. But the ruling said the circumstances of the case do not require the court "to ... end the interruption of transit between the two states."

Scavengers were ignoring roadblocks set up by police along a beach in southeastern England after a cargo ship ran aground just offshore and hundreds of the containers it was carrying fell overboard. The ship, which was damaged in last week's heavy storm, also has leaked about 50 tons of bunker fuel, reports said. The beach resembled a landfill Tuesday as people helped themselves to items as varied as motorcycles, athletic shoes, diapers, and casks of wine but left the packaging behind. Above, a couple leaves the beach with their prize.

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