World

With pressure mounting in the UN for new sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program, the International Atomic Energy Agency opens a conference of its 144 members Monday in Vienna. IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei is under fire again, especially from US and British quarters, for being too soft on Iran, diminishing prospects for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with the West. Meanwhile, Iran said the IAEA had given the OK for Russia to ship enriched uranium fuel for its Bushehr nuclear power plant, its first.

Hamas security forces practiced with grenade launchers and automatic rifles for a potential major incursion into the Gaza Strip by Israeli troops.Israeli tanks entered northern Gaza Saturday to try to root out nests of rocket launchers, but then withdrew. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said her government is considering various ways to retaliate for the latest round of rocket attacks, some of them "nonmilitary."

Despite former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's planned return from exile next month, the ruling party of Pakistan assured President Pervez Musharraf that he'd be elected to a new five-year termbefore she arrives. Bhutto has insisted that the presidential vote be delayed until next year and that Musharraf resign first as chief of the Army. She said she'd return Oct. 18 "to restore democracy." But the election likely will be held in the first week of the month, party leaders said.

Plans for a nationwide strike later this week in Zimbabwe remain in effect, union leaders said, despite the government's announcement that it will rescind a ban on pay increases. President Robert Mugabe ordered the ban Aug. 29 as part of a strategy to curb the world's highest inflation rate. But his labor minister said Sunday, "We are working on amendments as far as incomes are concerned." A general strike in April fizzled when the government deployed police in the major cities.

A stern new warning was issued by China's government after hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese rallied Saturday in support of President Chen Shui-bian's demand for membership in the UN.A Chinese statement said "we will ... undertake necessary preparations for a serious situation." Chen led marchers in the city of Kaohsiung after earlier blasting the US for not backing the referendum he proposes to hold on the matter. A similar march was held in Taichung.

Conservatives were hoping to avoid a backlash by Greek voters Sunday in an election called by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to try to win a new four-year term. But analysts said the opposition Socialists could benefit from widespread anger over last month's massive wildfires that swept across the nation after the vote was scheduled, killing 65 people and bringing accusations of incompetence against Karamanlis's government for its response. Many voters in southern Greece still are without water and electricity because of the fires.

A leading British bank was to open an hour early Monday in hopes of reassuring depositors that it's still solvent following a tumultuous weekend in which hundreds of them withdrew their savings. Police had to disperse angry crowds of others who couldn't get in to Northern Rock branches before they closed Saturday. Britain's fifth-largest mortgage lender, caught in the subprime credit crunch that began in the US, has acknowledged that its business model no longer is viable, and executives have hinted that they may have to sell off its assets.

Emergency crews battled flames and smoke to try to reach people still aboard a passenger jet that crashed in heavy rain on the island of Phuket, Thailand, Sunday. The flight carried 123 passengers, most of them foreign tourists, and a crew of five. Authorities said at least 74 people were killed; 42 others were hospitalized.

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