Iran's Supreme Leader scoffed at a draft resolution calling for the nation's nuclear program to be referred to the UN Security Council for the possible imposition of economic sanctions. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would continue on its path "of scientific development" and was not "scared of the fuss created" by the resolution written by British, French, and German officials. The draft was being circulated to other board members of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which could vote on it as soon as Feb. 2. Diplomats said the US, Britain, France, Russia, and China - the permanent members of the Security Council - were consulting on what to do if the matter reaches it. Meanwhile, Israel's army chief reportedly ruled out a preemptive strike at the Iranian nuclear facilities even though acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday that the Jewish state would not allow a rival "with hostile intentions against us" to have control over weapons of mass destruction. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."
Trading was ordered shut down on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Wednesday for only the second time in history as panicked investors sought to unload their shares in a troubled Internet company. At midday, stock indexes also were falling on European exchanges, the BBC reported. The computerized trading system in Tokyo was in danger of being overwhelmed by sell orders for Livedoor Ltd., which is suspected of concealing an $8.7 million loss for fiscal 2004. The panic spread to other Internet-related companies, causing the widely watched Nikkei index to drop 6 percent in two days. Livedoor executives deny any wrongdoing, but Japanese news outlets reported that prosecutors raided the company's headquarters Monday night and were opening a second investigation Wednesday. Livedoor offers networking, data management, design, and consulting services and is a partner in a publishing business.
Donors pledged almost $2 billion at a global conference on bird flu to help developing nations combat the spread of the virus. The World Bank had set $1.2 billion as its goal for the two-day meeting in Beijing. The pledges came as Chinese health officials reported the country's sixth human death from the virus and their counterparts in Turkey said the number of cases of infected people there rose to 21. But in Vietnam, which had been known as "ground zero" because of its rash of bird flu cases, the World Health Organization said there have been no infections in humans and no new outbreaks in poultry since November, following a mass vaccination program.
A tough new law against money-laundering was passed by Parliament in Sri Lanka Wednesday to help track the financing of Tamil Tiger rebels. Experts said most of the money reaching them is donated by thousands of Tamils who fled in 1983, when rioting by majority Sinhalese triggered the separatism campaign. Against that backdrop, the European mission that monitors conditions from the mainly Tamil port city of Trincomalee suspended operations Tuesday because of the worsening security situation, and heavily armed government troops arrived to reinforce those already there.
Four armed supporters of the government in Ivory Coast were killed by UN peacekeepers defending their compound against an attack Wednesday as conditions in the deeply divided African nation worsened. Backers of President Laurent Gbagbo also blocked streets and rioted for a third straight day in Abidjan, the main city, demanding a UN pullout. Gbagbo was to hold an unscheduled meeting with Nigerian leader Olusegun Oba-sanjo to try to come to a resolution of the matter. Gbagbo is accused by antigovernment rebels of orchestrating the unrest to undermine their transitional power-sharing administration.