World

Iran has upped the ante again in its confrontation with the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency said, confirming the start of nuclear fuel production at the Natanz underground uranium enrichment plant. The government said April 9 that such work was under way, but the announcement was received skeptically. IAEA inspectors, however, toured Natanz last week and saw the production for themselves, the agency said.

Senior US missile defense officials made another effort to ease Russian and European concerns over the proposed shield that would be built in Poland and the Czech Republic. At meetings in Brussels, they sought to convince European leaders of the urgency of defending against a potential attack by Iran. Later, they tried to persuade the Kremlin that the system poses no threat to Russia. But the difficulty of that effort was underscored by Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who told the Financial Times: "Since there aren't and won't be [Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles], against whom is this system directed? Only us."

New concerns that China's booming economy is overheating arose Thursday as the government announced first quarter growth of 11.1 percent. That was a higher rate than forecasters had predicted and followed a 10.4 percent jump in the last three months of 2006, despite three straight increases in interest rates. If necessary, Premier Wen Jibao has said the government will take steps to curb lending and investment and to reduce China's record trade surplus.

Opponents of conservative Australian Prime Minister John Howard seized on a new opening to attack his controversial support for the US-led counterterrorism effort. It came when Britain's High Commissioner said in a speech Wednesday that her government has "never seen Iraq as part of the war on terrorism." With a national election looming, Howard's ruling coalition is trailing the Labor Party in opinion polls. The latter has pledged to pull Australia's 1,400 troops out of Iraq if it wins. Howard sought to dispute her remarks, saying, "Our view and the view of the British government are identical."

Justices of Ukraine's top court were resisting pressure Thursday to say how soon they'll rule on the legality of President Viktor Yushchenko's order dissolving parliament. Fifty-three opposition legislators appealed the order, which also calls for elections to choose a new parliament. Yushchenko and his bitter rival, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich, have pledged to abide by the court's decision. But Yushchenko allies have called for nonstop demonstrations in the streets of Kiev to try to influence the justices.

Despite their admitted worry about sectarian violence in three Muslim-dominated southern provinces, Thailand's military leaders rejected a US offer to train soldiers in counterinsurgency tactics. "We regard the situation ... as an internal affair," Army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin said. But he said Thailand "would appreciate" US help in tracking the separatists' sources of financial backing. Almost daily acts of terrorism have killed more than 2,000 people since early 2004.

Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez confronted a Sunday deadline to gather enough signatures on petitions that would force a recall referendum against his challenger in last December's election. Manuel Rosales is one of only two remaining state governors from parties opposed to Chávez. Although he lost the presidential vote by a landslide, Chávez backers launched a campaign to remove him from office. For it to succeed, they need valid signatures from 20 percent of registered voters in the state.

On their ninth day, Protests for the resignation of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev turned violent, with police using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse an estimated 7,000 rock- and bottle-throwing demonstrators outside his office, reports said.

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