President Bush's address Monday night on the future of Iraq, the accompanying draft resolution put before the UN Security Council by the US and Britain - or both - drew international scorn, even from the head of the interim Governing Council in Baghdad. Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer said of the proposal, "We found it less than our expectations." French President Chirac voiced concerns about the return of responsibility to Iraqis for their oil industry and about the duration of the peacekeeping mission there. Russia said the draft resolution "requires changes." Especially across the Arab world, reaction to Bush's speech reflected the view that it was aimed at winning votes for his reelection campaign.

Iraq's new security forces will be ready to replace foreign troops in a matter of months, acting Defense Minister Ali Alawi said, adding: "Certainly before the elections," which are expected in January. Meanwhile, in new fighting Tuesday terrorists exploded a car bomb near Australia's embassy in Baghdad and fired on a police station from an apartment building. In Najaf, one of the most sacred Shiite shrines was damaged slightly in a clash between US forces and radical militiamen, but not by an American weapon, a military spokesman said.

All doubts about the purpose behind Iran's nuclear program should be put to rest by a 1,000-page declaration submitted two weeks ahead of schedule to the UN, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said. His views were amplified by Russia's Atomic Energy Agency, which said a deal it would sign this summer requires the return of spent fuel rods from Iran's new power plant that otherwise could be used to extract plutonium for nuclear warheads. But Western diplomats said a new assessment of the Iranian program by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamad ElBaradei would raise key questions still not addressed.

"If you want to talk about autonomy, stay away from me: Nobody gets autonomy," Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand told journalists as his government prepared to open peace talks Wednesday with the leader of the nation's Muslim insurgency movement. The meeting already is controversial because of criticism that it grants international legitimacy to Wan Kadir Che Man's movement, whose followers are blamed for almost daily violence since early January, resulting in more than 200 deaths.

The worst flooding in a decade was blamed for at least 270 deaths along the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Two hundred other people were reported missing. Rain that still was falling Tuesday caused the Solie River to overflow, cutting electricity and telephone service to 14 towns.

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