New evidence purports to show that Iran has made "significant advancement" toward converting its nuclear program to weapons production, US and European officials said over the weekend. But the Foreign Ministry in Tehran scorned the claim as an "another fuss" intended to "poison" the Nov. 24 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, at which the latter's board is to decide on referring Iran to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. Vice President and nuclear program chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh also ruled out a proposal that the enrichment of uranium for Iran's use be moved to Russia. But IAEA president Mohamad ElBaradei was considering a mission to Tehran to promote the idea.

US forces in Iraq were treating with caution reports that the most senior of Saddam Hussein's former lieutenants still at large has died. Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri's whereabouts remain unknown, but an Arab satellite TV channel said Friday that he failed to survive a lingering illness, and confirmation followed Saturday on a website used by supporters of Hussein's outlawed Baath Party. But a later statement on another website said the announcement "was baseless" and al-Douri "is fine." He is believed to have played a key role in organizing the resistance to US-led forces and to have facilitated links between the ousted regime and Islamic extremists. A $10 million reward was established for information leading to his capture. Analysts said the report of his death, if true, could change the course of the resistance. In a development that may or may not be related, a former Iraqi government minister said he has received a set of demands from militant organizations that would form the basis for a negotiated end to the violence. He did not identify the groups.

Supporters of President Hamid Karzai appear to have won "more than 50 percent" of the seats in Afghanistan's new parliament, veteran political observers said after the nation's September election results were made public over the weekend. The final count was delayed for weeks because of logistical challenges and accusations of fraud. The election attracted 5,800 candidates, all of whom ran as independents for the national assembly and provincial councils. Sixty-eight of the 249 seats in parliament were reserved for women.

A democracy activist who met earlier this month with Bush administration officials was arrested on his return to Syria and charged with fomenting sectarian riots. Kamal Labwani also claimed to have been beaten, the Human Rights Association in Syria said.

Queen Elizabeth II has been denounced by Al Qaeda as "one of the severest enemies of Islam" and "the relevant authorities" in Britain are studying a videotape in which its No. 2 leader uses that pronouncement to justify the two sets of terrorist bombings in London in July, reports said. Fifty-two people died in those attacks. The video has been posted on various Islamist websites, among them one operated by a London-based extremist. The video also seeks to incite British Muslims to prepare for "jihad and martyrdom" against coreligionists who have sought integration into British society, The Times (London) reported.)

More than 20,000 demonstrators turned out in Azerbaijan's capital Sunday for the second rally in less than a week to demand a rerun of disputed parliamentary elections. The opposition has alleged widespread fraud in the voting and ballot-counting, which gave President Ilham Aliev's party a majority. That claim was endorsed by outside monitors, although the Council of Europe has chosen to call instead for those responsible to be punished in lieu of a new election.

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