World

The US sought to apply new pressure on North Korea to shut down its nuclear facilities after the latter missed Saturday's deadline for idling them and inviting back international inspectors. US envoy Christopher Hill said nothing more could be done to free millions in North Korean funds that had been frozen in a Macao bank and "the ball is [now] in their court." He said the US was willing to wait "a few more days and see how it goes." There was no clear indication Sunday that the North has sought the access it demanded to the money.

Western diplomats were calling the announcement Sunday by Iran that it is seeking bids for two new nuclear power plants "another act of politics." Iran's nuclear agency said construction would take up to 11 years and that Russian and European builders had been approached. Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful and has refused all international pressure to end it.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made no measurable progress toward a peace deal in their first meeting Sunday at the behest of the US. But both sides sought to put a positive spin on the outcome, and Olmert reportedly entered the session in Jerusalem having told his cabinet he was willing to exchange ideas with "any grouping of Arab states" on the subject. Sources at the meeting said Olmert also agreed that their next set of talks could be in Jericho, on the West Bank.

The cultural capital of Morocco was reeling after a weekend in which two brothers triggered explosive belts outside American targets and police arrested a third would-be bomber at the scene. A fourth belt packed with explosives was found nearby before it could be used. Reports said the attackers tried to gain entry to the US Consulate and American Language Center in Casablanca. The brothers killed only themselves, but the incidents were the second and third of their type there in less than a week, and last month five people were killed or hurt in the bombing of an Internet cafe.

Chanting, "Turkey is secular; it will remain secular!" one of the largest crowds of demonstrators in decades massed in Ankara Saturday to oppose a possible bid for president by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Police estimated the gathering at 300,000 people; organizers claimed it was 1 million strong. Erdogan's AK Party has until April 25 to announce its nominee for president. Under his tenure, economic growth is booming, but the secular military leadership reportedly is uneasy at the thought of a chief executive with an Islamist past who might try to challenge the separation of church and state.

Thousands of antigovernment demonstrators crowded Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, for a fifth straight day Sunday, and organizers claimed to have enough momentum to drive President Kurmanbek Bakiyev from office within a week. The protests generally have been peaceful, but there were rumors that Bakiyev supporters from southern Kyrgyzstan might be about to confront the protesters, who are largely from the northern regions of the former Soviet republic. Bakiyev's two years in office have been marked by political feuds and allegations of fraud and cronyism.

A suggestion by leftist President Rafael Correa of Ecuador that he'd "quit" if voters rejected his nationwide referendum Sunday on rewriting the Constitution appeared unlikely to be tested. All signs pointed to an overwhelming "yes" vote on the measure, which is aimed at curbing the power and influence of the traditional conservative political parties. A final opinion poll showed 66 percent support for a rewrite.

Authorities raised the number of deaths to 37 after a flash flood trapped vacationers under two waterfalls in southern Thailand Saturday. Four others were missing after the disaster, which was blamed on a torrent from three days of heavy rain. The already popular waterfalls had attracted more people than usual because of the Buddhist New Year holiday.

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