World

Hurricane Dean gathered strength again Wednesday as it advanced on mainland Mexico. Maximum sustained winds were back up to 100 m.p.h., meteorologists said, battering evacuated oil platforms and flooding Ciudad del Carmen, a city of 120,000 people. Pemex, the state oil company, said it planned to evaluate the condition of its facilities later in the day.

The new cooperation pact between Iran and the Inter-national Atomic Energy Agency should be seen as a smoke screen aimed at diverting attention from the former's nuclear bombmaking activities, the chief US delegate to the IAEA said. Gregory Schulte said the UN Security Council was moving toward a third set of sanctions against Iran despite Tuesday's agreement, which the IAEA has hailed as a "milestone."

An indefinite curfew was imposed on the major cities in Bangladesh following a third day of violent clashes between police and students demanding an end to emergency rule and removal of an Army post from the University of Dhaka campus. At least one person was killed and hundreds of others were injured, reports said. Unrest has grown since the government declared the emergency in January and canceled elections. The vote has yet to be rescheduled, although it's expected by the end of 2008.

Riot police were back in force at the offices of a flooded mine in eastern China Wednesday, keeping angry relatives in line as the official Xinhua news agency said hope was fading that the 181 men trapped underground could be rescued. The government's Civil Affairs Minister sought to deflect criticism that more could have been done to save the miners, calling the incident "a natural disaster" caused by heavy rains and "not problems within the mine."

Thirteen dissidents were rounded up in midnight raids by security police in Burma (Myanmar) Tuesday, hours before a scheduled march against the government's new hike in fuel prices. The protest took place but was short-lived as supporters of the ruling junta attacked participants and dragged six of them into cars that sped away to unknown locations, witnesses said. Official newspapers called those who were arrested "agitators" and said they could be imprisoned for 20 years.

Major changes to Venezuela's Constitution proposed by President Hugo Chávez won unanimous initial approval by the National Assembly after less than six hours of debate Tuesday.Among them: the removal of term limits, which would allow Chávez to seek reelection as often as he chooses. The OK had been expected since the legislature is dominated by his allies. A final vote is projected within 90 days, after which the changes will be put to a national referendum.

Another dissident was released from prison in Cuba, the third in less than two weeks, the Committee to Protect Journalists announced Tuesday. Armando Betancourt Reina had spent 15 months behind bars after being arrested while covering the eviction of a family from their home in the city of Camaguey. Since Defense Minister Raul Castro assumed power for his hospitalized brother, Fidel, more than a year ago, the number of political prisoners has dropped by 20 percent, human rights advocates say.

Despite his popularity elsewhere in Argentina, thousands of angry protesters in President Nestor Kirchner's home province Tuesday demanded higher pay, the withdrawal of state police, and the prosecution of an ex-Kirchner aide for ramming his car into a crowd last weekend – an incident that hurt 17 people. Kirchner and his wife, Cristina, who's a candidate to succeed him in the Oct. 28 election, were campaigning nearby at the time of the incident but left hurriedly afterward.

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