World

Iran's leaders are "abusing" the goodwill of the Kremlin in their confrontation with the West over nuclear ambitions, an unidentified senior Russian official told news agencies Monday. He said "it is unacceptable" to Russia for Iran to have a nuclear weapon or "the potential to create one." The official spoke as the state-run Russian company building Iran's first nuclear power plant announced that it "will be impossible" for the facility to open on schedule in September. Iran is accused of falling behind in making $25 million monthly payments for the work. Still, Iran issued the first of a series of new bank notes Monday imprinted with the nuclear symbol: electrons circling a nucleus.

Masked Palestinian militants seized BBC reporter Alan Johnston at gunpoint in Gaza City Monday, security officials there confirmed. The incident was the latest in a series involving foreign journalists in Gaza, but the first since New Year's Day.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of Zimbabwe was beaten by police and is "in bad shape," his lawyer said Monday. Tsvangirai had been participating in an antigovernment prayer meeting on the outskirts of the capital, Harare, on Sunday when security forces arrived to break it up. Another participant was shot to death and 110 more were arrested, according to witnesses. Political protests are banned by President Robert Mugabe's government. Mugabe, Zimbabwe's only chief executive since it achieved independence in 1980, announced last week that he'll run for a new term next year "if [my] party says so."

An Internet cafe visitor, denied access to Islamist radical websites, triggered explosives Sunday night in Casablanca, Morocco, police said. The resulting blast killed him and wounded four other people. Police theorized that the cafe wasn't the intended target but that the attacker had expected to receive instructions from one of the websites about where he was to detonate his bomb. The city was rocked by a series of terrorist bombings in May 2003 that killed 45 people.

Despite tightened security measures, Muslim separatists carried out a new wave of attacks in southern Thailand Sunday night and Monday, killing four more people and injuring a dozen others. One of the victims, a Burmese immigrant working on a construction crew, was beheaded. The region braced for further violence Tuesday, the anniversary of the founding of one of the separatist movements.

Police were hunting the organizers of a protest in central China that turned violent late last week, local sources told Reuters Monday. As many as 20,000 farmers and laid-off factory employees in the city of Yongzhou fought with security forces, the report said. The demonstration was organized to protest rising fares for public transportation. China's government acknowledged 23,000 "mass incidents" last year, due to the widening gap between the poor and the affluent.

As expected, the president of France told a national TV audience Sunday night that he will not be a candidate for reelection. "The moment has come for me to serve you in a different way," Jacques Chirac said, six weeks before voters go to the polls for the first of two rounds to choose a new leader. Chirac, who has held the post for 12 years, didn't say whether he'll support the candidacy of Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, his onetime protégé. But analysts expect that to follow.

Three more foreign oil-industry employees were freed in Nigeria's delta region Monday after being seized by militants Feb. 18. Two are Croatian; the other is from Montenegro. It wasn't clear whether a ransom was paid for their release, although that is how kidnapping dramas there usually end. Militants are still believed to be holding three other foreign hostages: two Italians and a French national.

Rejecting the challenges of two rival candidates, the Constitutional Court of Senegal declared President Abdoulaye Wade the winner of the Feb. 25 election for a new five-year term. He won 55.9 percent of the valid ballots, the court said Sunday.

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