The top vote-getter in Iraq's historic Jan. 30 election said it was disappointed that the official tally gave it 48 percent and questioned why the results were not announced until Sunday. The Shiite United Iraqi Alliance said it "expected 50 percent." It will not be able to form a government on its own, requiring a coalition with a Kurdish alliance, which took 26 percent of the ballots, and with interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, whose list of candidates placed third, at 13.8 percent. Sunni Muslims largely boycotted the election. The turnout was 8.55 million, or 58 percent of eligible voters, the Electoral Commission said.

An increasingly defiant Iranian government said it rejects demands that it stop building a heavy-water nuclear reactor. For the second time in less than a week, it also warned the US not to "play with fire" by attacking its nuclear facilities. The hardened tone followed a report in The Washington Post that the US has been operating pilotless radar drones over Iran to look for evidence of a nuclear weapons program and to probe air defenses. European governments with which Iran has been negotiating have offered to trade a light-water reactor for the heavy-water unit, which provides a simpler way of producing fuel for bombs or warheads.

More than 200 laborers were allowed to return to jobs in Israel from the Gaza Strip Sunday for the first time in months as the Jewish State sought to strengthen the hand of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. As Abbas was finalizing the makeup of his proposed cabinet, Israel also was expected to release 500 Palestinians from prison as soon as Wednesday. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered a crackdown against Jewish extremists who oppose his plan to withdraw from Gaza this summer. The issue is so divisive that analysts predict attempts to assassinate the prime minister.

Ignoring worldwide condemnation, the new president of Togo praised police for their professionalism in using deadly force to quell a public protest against him. At least three participants were killed when the police fired into their ranks Saturday. Opposition leaders put the number at seven and said dozens more were wounded. The capital, Lomé, appeared calm Sunday, and President Faure Gnassingbe appealed for restraint and a show of "patriotism." The opposition asked Togolese to show displeasure at Gnassingbe's installation by the Army by staying home Mondays.

"The biggest fire this city has ever had" will keep much of the banking district in Madrid closed until Wednesday, authorities said, because it threatened to collapse the 32-story Windsor Building, the city's eighth-tallest. The blaze, which broke out Saturday and was still attracting crowds of onlookers 24 hours later, was being blamed on an electrical short-circuit.

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