Four days before the deadline for finishing Iraq's draft constitution, senior Shiite leaders demanded that the oil-rich southern region of the country be granted autonomy. Rival Shiites in the interim coalition government rejected the idea, but it was not immediately clear whether it might delay delivery of the proposed charter on Monday. Sixteeen points of contention remain unresolved, a member of the multiethnic drafting commitee said Thursday. Kurds also have demanded continued autonomy for their region in northern Iraq, which is rich in oil as well. Sunni Muslims have been insisting on a powerful central government, out of concern that they be left in a central Iraq that lacks oil.
With Iran's uranium conversion facility back to full operation, board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency were arguing over a resolution that would express "serious concern" but would stop short of asking the UN Security Council to consider imposing economic sanctions. A draft text said only that Iran's actions underscore "the importance of rectifying the situation" and urged a new suspension of uranium processing. Analysts said Russia, which is helping Iran with technological assistance to its nuclear program, and China almost certainly would not agree to imposing sanctions.
Ten people suspected of posing threats to national security were arrested in Britain and notified of the government's intention to deport them under a promised crackdown on "preachers of hate." Among them: Palestinian Sheikh Omar Abu Omar, a radical Muslim cleric described as Osama bin Laden's "spiritual ambassador in Europe." The detainees have five days to appeal deportation. Omar is a native of Jordan, where he's under a sentence of life imprisonment for his role in several terrorist plots.
Hamas agreed to work with the Palestinian Authority in monitoring next week's Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. But the militant organization said it will not accept "a marginal role" and it rejected a demand by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that it hold no victory celebrations during the pullout. Hamas has fought with Abbas's forces over concerns that the latter would try to lay claim to abandoned Jewish settlements in Gaza for personal gain.
Without informing neighboring India, Pakistan's armed forces test-fired their first cruise missile. The launch site wasn't disclosed; the Babur missile can be fired from warships or fighter jets. It has a range of 500 miles and is capable of carrying nuclear warheads. A new protocol signed by the arch- rivals requires that they notify each other in advance only for tests of ballistic missiles.