It would be "wise" of the US to work cooperatively with North Korea on nuclear issues, the latter's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, because its forces have the ability to launch preemptive attacks against American targets. North Korea normally refers to its nuclear arsenal as a "deterrent" rather than as an offensive force, and analysts suggested that the declaration further clouds the prospects for resumption of multilateral talks on its weapons program. The Foreign Ministry said "[a] preemptive strike is not the monopoly of the United States," adding that the North had "built nuclear weapons for no other purpose" than to counter US threats. Rival South Korean and US forces are scheduled to hold their annual joint military exercises this weekend.

No progress was made toward agreement on responding to the nuclear ambitions of Iran in a meeting Monday night of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Germany also took part in the discussion, which was to be continued at a later date in hopes of breaking the impasse. The US, Britain, and France maintain that the threat of sanctions imposed by the council is necessary to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear program. A draft statement that they support sets a two-week deadline for Iran to stop the enrichment of uranium, which could be used in a nuclear weapon. But Chinese and Rus- sian diplomats say such a deadline is too short and that their objective is "to solve the issue ... through negotiations" with Iran.

Eleven pounds of explosives were found in a van transporting a group of Palestinians between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Tuesday after Israeli police stopped it in a Hollywood-style chase. Ten suspects were arrested and the resulting alert brought much of Israel to a virtual standstill. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the group by any Palestinian militant organization. With Israel's national election a week away, a bomb explosion anywhere in the Jewish state could have major implications, analysts said. The new centrist Kadima Party of acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert leads in opinion polls but is accused by rivals of being too soft on the Palestinians.

Despite a heavy snowstorm, hundreds of Belarussians extended their protest against the reelection of hard-line President Alexander Lukashenko into a third day. But there were few signs that it might gain "people power" proportions as happened in neighboring Ukraine. Lukashenko vowed to "wring the necks" of those who disrupt public order, but security police appeared to be waiting to see whether the ranks of the protesters would grow as the working day ended in Minsk, the capital. The BBC reported that four dissidents had been arrested. Opposition spokesmen put the number at more than 100.

Heavy fighting erupted between government troops and rebels in eastern Chad, where the latter have been massing since last fall for an apparent effort to overthrow President Idriss Deby. Deby himself was directing the offensive, reports said. Both sides claimed to have inflicted heavy casualties, but the claims could not be verified. The rebel ranks have been swelled by defectors from the Army, although the government said Monday it had arrested roughly 100 soldiers who were implicated in a plot last week to assassinate Deby, who is seeking a new term in the May 3 national election.

Calling it a necessary move to keep violence at a minimum, the government of Sri Lanka extended by another month the state of emergency imposed last August. The announcement followed reports of a gunfight at sea Tuesday between Tamil rebel boats and a Navy craft. A Navy spokesman said no sailors were hurt in the incident; it was not known whether there were rebel casualties. The government said there had been only 19 violent confrontations with rebels since the two sides met for peace talks last month - the first in three years. But since violence began increasing in December, about 200 people have been killed.

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