Thousands of military personnel paraded in Tehran Wednesday in a show of support for the Iranian government's last-minute demand to exempt some functions of its nuclear program from a new deal to satisfy the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency that its intentions are peaceful. Iranian representatives told the IAEA that despite agreeing to suspend the enrichment of uranium, their government wants to continue to operate 24 centrifuges "for research purposes." A Western diplomat close to the matter said it appeared that the request would be rejected.

The first 6,000 quick-reaction troops graduated from an Iraqi military academy, another step by the war-torn country toward defending itself once its national election is held in January. But in a potentially ominous new development, a scathing audiotape reputedly made by terrorist leader Abu Musab al- Zarqawi blasted senior Muslim scholars for their failure to citicize US actions in Iraq. It surfaced following the assassinations of two senior Sunni clerics, which some analysts said may have been designed to ensure a Sunni boycott of the vote.

A full-blown political crisis appeared to be building in Ukraine after its elections commission declared Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych the winner of last weekend's hotly disputed presidential runoff election. Within minutes of the announcement Wednesday, tens of thousands of supporters of opposition leader Viktor Yuschenko - massed in Kiev's main square for a third straight day - were marching on the presidential palace. Yanukovych dismissed the protests as "nothing extra-ordinary." Outgoing President Leonid Kuchma, who hand-picked Yanukovych, also ridiculed the protests as "a farce," although he called for both sides to resolve the crisis through negotiations.

Promising more negotiations, the prime minister of Pakistan left a rare meeting with his Indian counterpart, insisting that his government wants lasting bilateral peace. Shaukat Aziz said after talks in New Delhi with Manmohan Singh that controversial suggestions by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on how disputed Kashmir could be governed had done no lasting damage. But Kashmir remains the key to peace, and progress on all other issues between the nuclear-armed rivals will be made "in tandem" with it, Aziz said.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.