Iran will give its answer by Aug. 22 to the offer by Western governments of incentives to stop enriching uranium, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday. In Vienna, where he is attending the annual European Union summit, President Bush said: "It shouldn't take ... that long to analyze what is a reasonable deal." The Iranian government was presented with the proposal June 6 by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. Bush warned earlier this week that if the regime in Tehran rejects the package, it will confront progressively stronger political and economic sanctions.
At least 30 more Taliban militants were killed Wednesday in attacks by coalition troops on their bases in southern Afghan-istan. But in a news briefing, a US military spokesman predicted months of "significant fighting" before the region is brought under NATO control. He said Taliban remnants have been seen "operating in larger groups [and] trying to stop our efforts." To date, the coalition offensive, dubbed Operation Mountain Thrust, has reported killing almost 100 Taliban and recovering caches of weapons.
A breakthrough in negotiations on forming Ukraine's next coalition government will return former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko to her old job, reports said Wednesday. The three political blocs that emerged from the 2004 Orange Revolution to form a government – Tymoshenko's party, the Socialists, and President Viktor Yush-chenko's Our Ukraine – appeared to have a new deal earlier this month after the March election that produced no majority winner. But the agreement foundered over who would fill two key posts: prime minister and Speaker of Parliament.
In a joint announcement, the governments of the US and Japan said their negotiators had agreed on resuming shipments of American-produced beef. The deal, however, is conditional on US packing plants passing inspections by Japanese agricultural experts. Japan has been the most lucrative export market for US cattle ranchers, and shipments resumed last December after a two-year ban, imposed because of concerns that some might be infected with so-called "mad cow" disease. But they were suspended again a month later when bone was found in boxes of veal.
The truce monitors from Scandinavian countries that are members of the European Union must be replaced, Sri Lanka's Tamil rebels said. The EU recently designated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam a terrorist organization, and the rebels said they'd cooperate only with monitors from nonmember nations. Norwegian officials, who have led the monitoring mission, appeared ready to bow to the demand. That would leave the 57-observer team with only 20 people – the rest represent Sweden, Finland, and Denmark – at a time when daily violence involving the rebels and government forces threatens to plunge Sri Lanka back into full-scale civil war.
Embattled Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri scheduled a meeting Thursday with members of his Cabinet to discuss a request by East Timor's leader that he resign. Aides indicated he probably would do so. President Xanana Gusmao had stood by Alkatiri through weeks of accusations that he was responsible for the rampant violence in the tiny nation because he'd fired almost half the Army for going on strike. But in a letter Tuesday, Gusmao reportedly said he no longer trusts the prime minister and would dismiss him if he rejected the request.
At least 114 people were dead and dozens more were missing because of flooding and landslides on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, and the government said an investigation would be opened into claims that illegal logging was a major contributor to the problem. Torrential rain has fallen on the region since last weekend, and forecasters predicted still more over the rest of the week.