A second round of discussions with the US on the situation in Iraq officially has been requested, Iran's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. It did not announce a date for new talks, and the State Department in Washington said no meeting has yet been scheduled. Iran and the US met at the ambassadorial level in late May in Baghdad.
North Korea has idled its entire nuclear complex at Yongbyon – not just the reactor – and is offering to declare and disable its full weapons program by year's end, diplomats and the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday. The total-disclosure offer is considered important because it implies the inclusion of uranium enrichment, a capability that the North has never admitted publicly.
Hamas reacted angrily to an announcement Wednesday by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas endorsing early elections for parliament. Abbas did not indicate when a new vote – seen as a way to end his bitter struggle for power with Hamas – might be held but said he'd issue a decree once the Palestinian Central Council decides on a date. Hamas trounced Abbas's Fatah movement in parliamentary elections in January 2006, and its spokesman said any recommendation by the council would be "illegal."
Criticism rained down on the chief of Japan's leading electric utility after further checks of its nuclear reactor at Kashiwazaki revealed that radioactive leakage due to the strong earthquake earlier this week was 50 percent worse than first estimated. Tsunehisa Katsumata apologized for "the worry and trouble we have caused," but defended safety standards at the plant. The damaged facility was ordered to remain closed indefinitely by Kashiwazaki Mayor Hiroshi Aida. Seismologists were studying whether a fault line runs directly under the plant.
Three Muslims were sentenced by a court in Bombay (Mumbai), India, Wednesday to be executed for their roles in the nation's worst terrorist attack. The court said they had "disgraced" Islam by planting bombs that killed 257 people in India's financial capital in March 1993. Eighty-one defendants have been sentenced to date after one of the longest and most widely watched trials in India's history, but these were the first to draw the death penalty. The sentences can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
Diplomatic efforts were expected to begin as soon as possible for the return to Bulgaria of six medical personnel after their death sentences in Libya were commuted Tuesday. Libya's highest legal authority reduced the penalties – for five nurses and a Palestinian doctor who holds Bulgarian citizenship – to life in prison for infecting 460 children with the virus that's believed to cause AIDS. Dozens of the subjects later died. Demands for execution of the defendants severely strained relations between Libya and western governments.
By a 149-to-4 vote Wednesday, Thailand's interim parliament rescinded a ban on organizing new political parties. The move still must be endorsed by King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The military-backed government imposed the ban last September after ousting Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the courts later ordered his political party disbanded. Although time is short, its members now may register as a new party and campaign for the general election expected later this year.
Three days of mourning were declared and an official investigation was ordered after perhaps the worst aviation accident in Brazilian history. As many as 200 people are believed to have died when a TAM Airlines passenger jet skidded on a wet runway at São Paulo's Congonhas Airport Tuesday night and slammed into a gas station and cargo terminal, causing a massive fire.