North Korea's government was silent on a claim by the Bush administration that it has committed to a new round of negotiations on its nuclear weapons program. But the foreign ministry lashed out at the US over reported comments that the administration was ready to refer the Pyongyang government to the UN for the imposition of sanctions, calling them "something only a fool could say." The negotiations have been dormant for a year, despite the North's promise to rejoin the US, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea at the conference table last September. No date has been established to reopen the talks, but China's UN ambassador said a start-up was likely in the next few weeks.

Angry Sunni Muslim leaders in Iraq accused President Jalal Talabani of acting "in line with US policies" to foment civil war after he praised Shiite and Kurdish militias as "faithful sons of this country." Talabani, a Kurd, called the militias "heroes in liberating Iraq." But a Sunni spokesman linked "militia elements who have joined the army" to "the chasing and killing of Sunni clerics and their followers." The flap arose one day after a Sunni politician said he has been in contact with two "resistance" groups that are willing to open negotiations with the government on joining the political process.

New violence in the streets of Ethiopia's capital was blamed for at least 22 deaths. Hospital officials said hundreds of other people were hurt, many of them with gunshot wounds as security forces fired on antigovernment protesters. State-run radio warned of even tougher measures in the event of additional demonstrations. The rising tensions have grown out of the disputed election last month for a new parliament, which opponents accuse Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's People's Revolutionary Democratic Front of rigging.

The resignation of President Carlos Mesa only served to intensify Bolivia's political turmoil as violence in the streets of La Paz complicated the efforts of Congress to choose his successor. Legislators Thursday are expected to accept Mesa's offer to quit. But he called on the first in line to succeed him, Senate leader Hormando Vaca Diez, to step aside and allow a new national election to fill the post. Protesters in the streets, meanwhile, clashed again with riot police, responding with small sticks of dynamite to a hail of tear gas and rubber bullets.

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