Any sanctions against North Korea as a result of its nuclear policy "mean a war," the Communist regime warned. It also demanded a US apology for last month's brief seizure of a North Korean ship carrying missiles to Yemen, accusing the Bush administration of a strategy aimed at "stifling" North Korea. The UN's nuclear agency, meanwhile, said Pyongyang must readmit weapons inspectors or it would refer the matter to the Security Council, which could result in sanctions.

In Iraq, UN arms inspectors have found nothing suspicious so far, though it's too early to tell whether Baghdad is violating an order to disarm, the UN nuclear agency's director, Mohamed ElBaradei, said in a BBC interview. Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said his country's support for any US-led military action in Iraq depends on what the inspectors find. Britain, meanwhile, activated 1,500 reservists to ready for a possible conflict, and in a New Year's message to the French armed forces, President Jacques Chirac told troops to prepare "for all eventualities."

Six men of North African descent were being questioned by antiterrorism police in Britain, after materials found at an address in London tested positive for the toxin risin. Derived from the castor bean plant, risin is twice as deadly as cobra venom. Scotland Yard said its investigation was continuing, and that while the public should remain vigilant "our message is still 'alert, not alarm.' "

Israel's Supreme Court heard appeals by two Arab legislators disqualified from running for reelection. The decision by Israel's election commission to bar Azmi Bishara and Ahmed Tibi angered the country's 1.2 million Arab minority. A ruling by the high court is expected tomorrow.

After an incident characterized as either a hijacking or a bomb scare, an Afghan airliner landed safely in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The aircraft was carrying 150 passengers, Muslims making a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, an airline official said. At least one hijacker reportedly was removed and the plane was due to resume its journey later in the day.

A Russian man linked to an Olympic scandal may be extradited to the US, a court in Venice, Italy, ruled. Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov was detained in July on charges of fixing figure-skating events at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. He denies the accusation and his lawyer said Tokhtakhounov will appeal the extradition. Controversy over a Russian win in the pairs event led Olympic officials to award an unprecedented second gold medal to a Canadian couple.

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