Negotiators for Britain, France, and Germany dropped their demand that Iran's nuclear program be referred to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions, and the latter quickly claimed a "significant victory." The Europeans climbed down from their stance in a draft resolution before the governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency when it became apparent that Russia, China, and as many as 13 other members would not vote in favor of it. The Iranians then invited IAEA chief Mohamad ElBaradei to Tehran to discuss outstanding concerns over the nuclear program, but skeptics dismissed it as an empty gesture.

Britain also was confronting a refusal by authorities in the No. 2 city in Iraq to continue cooperation because of an incident of violence earlier this week. The governing council of Basra unanimously demanded that Britain apologize and pay for damage to the city's jail after its troops broke down the walls to free two soldiers arrested during a gunfight. The incident led to vehement protests that have raised tensions to such a degree that British troops were keeping a low profile.

A possible "grand coalition" government in Germany appeared possible after all, as opposition leader Angela Merkel and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder agreed to a new round of meetings next week. Merkel said their initial talks on how to lead the nation out the deadlock caused by last weekend's inconclusive election were "constructive." But Schröder maintains that his Social Democrats won the most votes since he views Merkel's Christian Democrat/ Christian Social Union alliance as two separate parties.

Forced to vote a second time on the nominee for prime minister of Ukraine, members of parliament confirmed him easily. Yuri Yekhanurov, who fell three votes short Tuesday, was backed by 289 legislators after his nomination was resubmitted by President Viktor Yush-chenko. He succeeds the charismatic Yulia Tymoshenko, whom Yushchenko fired Sept. 8 for failure to stop the political infighting that has followed last year's successful Orange Revolution.

Hundreds of Army troops and riot police were patrolling the main city in Nigeria's oil region after militant separatists protested the arrest of their leader. Moujahid Dokubo-Asari will be charged with treason, authorities said, for advocating the breakup of the nation. He and his followers want control of foreign-owned oil operations and their billions of dollars in annual revenues and have threatened to blow them up unless their demands are met. One operator, Royal Dutch/Shell, would neither confirm nor deny that the militants had seized four of its terminals.

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