World

Sixty thousand Iranian forces opened the nation's largest war games in just under a year Monday – and the third since Jan. 1 – as a UN deadline for halting the enrichment of uranium loomed. That deadline arrives Wednesday, but the Foreign Ministry repeated assertions that "suspension is unacceptable" despite the threat of further economic sanctions by the UN Security Council. In Moscow, however, Russia's nuclear agency announced that it will delay construction on the first Iranian reactor at Bushehr because the customer is behind in making payments.

Despite Russian objections and a public rebuke by Germany's foreign minister, a proposed US missile defense system "will most likely" be built on Polish and Czech soil, the prime ministers of those countries said Monday. The plan calls for ground-based ballistic rockets to be sited in Poland and an advanced tracking system to be built in the Czech Republic. Senior Russian officials repeatedly have said they don't trust US claims that the system is intended to counter a threat from Iran. German Foreign Minister Frank- Walter Steinmeier criticized the Bush administration for failing to inform Russia beforehand about the proposal.

Police abandoned a district in western Afghanistan Monday after a roadside bomb explosion killed four officers and wounded two others as they returned from a mission to destroy opium poppy fields. Taliban forces were blamed for planting the bomb, but it was not immediately clear whether they'd taken over control of the area.

Military chiefs warned of further attacks by Muslim separatists in southern Thailand after a wave of bombings and shootings that killed at least eight people and wounded 69 others Sunday night. The incidents took place as residents of four Muslim- dominated provinces celebrated the lunar New Year and appeared aimed at scaring ethnic Chinese residents into fleeing. Prime Minister Surayud Chula-nont, who admitted last week that his conciliatory approach toward the separatists isn't working, warned that they might strike again next month when Buddhists celebrate a holiday.

An American petroleum engineer and his driver were freed unharmed by their captors in Nigeria. But on Sunday night, armed militants invaded a bar in the city of Port Harcourt and seized three Croatian employees of an offshore oil company. The latest kidnappings bring to 55 the number of foreigners seized since Jan. 1, almost as many as in all of 2006.

Antigovernment activists in Guinea complained that hundreds of their supporters have been arrested since President Lansana Conte imposed martial law on the nation last week. But the arrests also may be responsible for the easing of a nationwide curfew Monday, analysts said, with military chiefs sensing that the threat of violence no longer is great. A general strike to try to force Conte's resignation is still in progress, however.

Another 3,300 Mexican soldiers are being deployed to states that border Texas as part of the federal crackdown on drug- related violence, the Interior Ministry announced. The crackdown, which began two months ago, already has resulted in the seizure of weapons caches and clandestine narcotics laboratories and the destruction of 17,700 acres of opium poppy and marijuana plants. The two border states, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, are trafficking routes and have been the scene of turf wars between drug gangs.

Airbus, the leading competitor of Boeing Co., surprised the aviation industry Monday by postponing the announcement on the overhaul of its struggling operations. Among the expected features: the layoffs of up to 12,000 employees and the selloff of some assembly plants. Company chief Louis Gallois challenged the governments of Britain, France, Germany, and Spain to stop squabbling over how to divide the work on the planned A350 wide-body jetliner, which is meant to rival Boeing's 787.

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