World

US Navy and Marine units carried out an unannounced show of force in the Persian Gulf off Iran, their second in three months. The exercise drew an angry reaction from Iran's defense minister, who said the Islamic republic "will resist any kind of threat and give a powerful answer to enemies and oppressors." The US accuses Iran of developing a nuclear weapons program and of fomenting instability in neighboring Iraq, both of which the latter denies. But in a raid in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, American forces found a "large amount" of Iranian currency and bombmaking equipment, a US military spokesman said Wednesday.

Iran not only has defied UN Security Council demands to halt its nuclear program, but also has expanded that activity, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei reported. He said the Islamic republic also has failed to back up assurances that the program is of an "exclusively peaceful nature." The Security Council's latest deadline for Iranian compliance is Thursday, and ElBaradei's findings could prompt early discussion of a new set of sanctions.

The Kremlin wasn't reassured by last week's consultations with senior US officials on the proposed antimissile shield that would be built in eastern Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday. He told a news conference that the project "is an absolutely harmful thing" and "won't lead to anything but a new spiral in the arms race." The US says the system is aimed at countering a prospective threat from Iran.

There will be still more delay in the shutdown of North Korea's nuclear facilities, the foreign minister of rival South Korea conceded Wednesday. Song Min-soon said the dispute over the transfer of $25 million in North Korean funds from a bank in Macao to an unspecified account elsewhere will not be resolved "as fast as we had hoped." Other banks have been reluctant to accept the transfer of the money, which the US has alleged is counterfeit. Because of the dispute, North Korea did not meet the April 14 deadline for shutting its nuclear facilities.

Without directly accusing Kurdish rebels of Tuesday's bombing in Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it bore the hallmarks of "the terrorist organization [that] could carry out such attacks in major cities." The bomber, who killed himself and five others and wounded 91 more, has been identified but not yet linked to the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party.

Amid unprecedented security precautions, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas went to Gaza City Wednesday for talks with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. They discussed restoring the truce with Israel that collapsed due to Hamas rocket launches into the Jewish state. Hamas has said Israel must first halt arrest raids into the West Bank, a demand that repeatedly has been rejected.

A morale-boosting visit to deeply troubled southern Thailand was announced by Queen Sirikit, the Bangkok Post reported. But it said she won't make the trip until at least September. Acts of violence have become a daily occurrence in the region as militants from the Muslim majority push a separatist campaign that has killed more than 2,100 people since early 2004. Five more deaths and nine injuries resulted from attacks Wednesday.

A physician in his early 30s with pro-Western leanings was elected speaker of Serbia's parliament a week after the first choice, ultranationalist Tomislav Nikolic, resigned in the face of domestic and international protest. But Nikolic attacked his successor, Oliver Dulic, for preferring Serbian integration into the European Union to holding onto separatist Kosovo Province.

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