US forces will transfer to Iraqis the responsibility for their own affairs on June 30, senior administrator Paul Bremer reiterated. "Changes are possible [in the method by which a new government is established], he said, "but the date holds." He spoke as special UN envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi was briefing Secretary-General Kofi Annan on his mission to determine the feasibility of a national election. Annan leaves for a trip to Japan Friday, and it wasn't clear as the Monitor went to press whether he'd issue a recommendation first on how and when a new Iraqi government should be chosen.

Despite expressions of goodwill, Greek and Turkish Cypriot negotiators staked out positions that were far apart as they met for last-ditch talks on reunifying their long-divided nation. Under UN auspices, the two sides are expected to meet daily to try to agree on a formula for reunion in time for a referendum April 21. Without a deal, Greek Cyprus will join the European Union alone May 1.

While sticking to denials that it has a secret uranium-based nuclear weapons program, North Korea sent word that it's willing to discuss the matter next week when a new round of six-nation discussions opens. It has admitted to having a plutonium-based weapons program. But Undersecretary of State John Bolton, on his way to Beijing for Wed-nesday's first session, said the success of the talks will hinge on whether the North is willing to give up its weapons program. The Pyongyang government has pledged to "freeze" all nuclear activity, but only in exchange for major economic and diplomatic concessions by the US.

Embattled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti refused to consider proposals that might bring an early and peaceful end to the two-week-old popular rebellion against his government. His spokesman called proposals for a temporary transfer of power to an interim administration - and for calling an early election - "tantamount to admitting the legitimacy of a coup against the government." Aristide's five-year term isn't due to end until 2006. Meanwhile, in the No. 2 city, Cap-Haitien, police barricaded themselves inside their headquarters Wednesday, admitting they couldn't prevent a takeover by dissidents. But civilian Aristide loyalists vowed to defend the city in their place.

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