World

Saying, "I don't think we can afford to fail," International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohammed ElBaradei urged Iran and the US to compromise on their nuclear dispute Wednesday. But the former warned that the imposition of new UN sanctions could "destroy" its willingness to cooperate and ruled out any suspension of uranium enrichment. The US said it would press ahead for new penalties unless technology that could result in a bomb was scrapped. IAEA board members are meeting in Vienna.

Airport police stopped Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan from attending a protest against the government in Karachi, the nation's largest city, and put him on a flight back to the capital.Officials said the move, two days after ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was deported on his attempted return from exile, was ordered because Khan's presence could cause "unrest." The onetime cricket star is a Sharif ally and ardent foe of embattled President Pervez Musharraf. He blasted the move as "state terrorism."

A fuel-air bomb touted as four times more powerful than the US version has been tested successfully, Russian officials said Wednesday.Deputy Air Force chief Alexander Rukshin claimed the device is "comparable to a nuclear weapon" and has "no match in the world."Such thermobaric bombs disperse a cloud of explosives that are ignited by a charge and mainly are employed to destroy underground targets. The development is seen as the latest move by Russia to reassert its global military power.

Australians awoke Wednesday to news that cabinet discussions on whether Prime Minister John Howard should be replaced before his coalition government loses in a landslide election later this year were initiated by Howard himself. But the prime minister, who has been in office since 1996, announced that he'll retire before the end of his next term if he should win reelection. Opinion polls consistently have showed that his government will be defeated by a margin of 14 to 18 points.

A court that was set in motion by Philippines President Joseph Estrada while he was in office convicted him Wednesday of corruption and sentenced him to life imprisonment. The verdict ended a six-year trial in which the former film star was accused of plundering tens of millions of dollars from illegal gambling operations, bribes, and tax kickbacks during his rule. He is expected to appeal. Authorities were braced for mass protests in the streets of Manila by his followers, but only about 300 people turned out and their reaction to the verdict was peaceful.

State-controlled newspapers in Burma (Myanmar) printed stories and pictures Wednesday of government officials paying tribute to Buddhist monasteries, a gesture of respect after the heavy-handed crackdowns last week on antijunta protests led by monks. Analysts said gifts of money and cooking oil likely would win new appreciation from monastery leaders and younger monks who traditionally are deferential to them. But reports in the exiled opposition press suggested that the gifts may be refused unless accompanied by apologies for the mistreatment of the monks during demonstrations against a hefty increase in fuel prices.

Communications problems were preventing an accurate assessment of damage from a powerful earthquake off Sumatra island, Indonesia, Wednesday that triggered a tsunami. Early reports said the magnitude-7.9 quake caused tall buildings in at least four neighboring countries to sway, and authorities in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere warned residents of coastal areas to stay away from beaches. A quake off Sumatra in December 2004 was blamed for more than 230,000 deaths in the region.

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