The rest of the world will have to give in to Iran's position on the use of nuclear technology, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday in one of several defiant comments by leaders of the government in Tehran. Officials also said Iran would "review our policies" on exporting oil if any more pressure is applied over its nuclear activities and that the US could feel "harm and pain" if the UN Security Council takes up the issue. The latter was a response to Vice President Cheney's warning Tuesday that Iran would face "meaningful consequences" if it continued to defy the international community on its nuclear ambitions. In a blast at the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iranian officials also said the finding that their government has failed to comply with nuclear technology safeguards was the IAEA's "biggest blunder."

In a late-afternoon raid, gunmen posing as Iraqi police seized as many as 50 employees of a private agency that provides protection services for businesses, forced them into waiting vehicles, and fled. The agency's offices are in a mixed Shiite-Sunni neighborhood of Baghdad and some of its employees are former members of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein's security apparatus. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the incident. Meanwhile, Shiite Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the last holdout, signed an executive order calling parliament into session for the first time since last December's election. An informed source said he expected the legislature to meet as soon as Sunday.

The number of deaths from Tuesday night's bomb explosions in Varanasi, India, rose to 28, reports said. The Hindu holy city remained virtually shut down in protest Wednesday, although there were no signs of a sectarian backlash against Muslims and authorities said they didn't expect one. Most of the anger was directed at the government of Uttar Pradesh State, India's most populous, for ignoring threats to security. In Luck-now, the state capital, police shot and killed a Muslim militant who they said "probably was involved in the Varanasi blasts." He was carrying six pounds of explosives, they said.

By mistake, two ground-to-air missiles were fired by North Korean forces toward China, the communist nation's only close friend, an "Asian security source" said. The missiles were of the short-range variety and apparently landed on North Korean soil, the Kyodo News agency of Japan reported. But when they were launched and the location of impact were unclear. Calls by the Associated Press seeking comment from China's Defense Ministry were not answered. Meanwhile, North Korea refused again to return to six-nation talks on its nuclear weapons program until the US stops pressuring financial institutions suspected of aiding the government's alleged money-laundering activities.

Amid heavy security precautions, narcotics agents in southern Afghanistan opened a mass eradication program against the opium poppy crop. The campaign began two days after the government warned that signs pointed to increased cultivation of the cash crop under the protection of the Taliban, which enforced a ban on poppy-growing when it controlled Afghanistan. The US Agency for International Development has said it will spend $146 million this year on export-oriented farming projects to help wean farmers off the crop, which thrives in the poor soil and abundant sunshine. Afghanistan is the source of almost 90 percent of the world's opium and heroin.

Massive relief efforts averted a second humanitarian disaster in northern Pakistan following the powerful Oct. 8 earthquake, UN officials told a news conference. The 7.6-magnitude quake killed more than 87,000 people and left an estimated 3 million others homeless. But relief operations coupled with milder-than-expected winter weather prevented a "second wave" of casualties, a large exodus from the region, severe malnutrition, and epidemics of disease, an official said, adding, "The winter race has been won."

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