With its deadline looming for suspending the enrichment of uranium, Iran dedicated a heavy-water nuclear reactor Saturday. Its leaders repeated a vow that "we will never stop" the production of fuel, noting that its nuclear program was developed in spite of international sanctions. The US has warned of swift action on a new program of sanctions if enrichment is not halted by the Thursday deadline, although its partners on the UN Security Council have been more cautious in discussing the subject.

North Korea will take "all necessary countermeasures" against financial sanctions imposed by the US, its foreign ministry vowed. A newspaper published in Japan by North Koreans and believed to have close ties to the communist regime said the "full responsibility" for any such measures rests with the Bush administration, adding, "We can't say for sure that North Korea will not conduct a nuclear test ... to protect our country from that threat." The sanctions, imposed for counterfeiting and money-laundering, also are cited by the North as its reason for refusing to return to multilateral negotiations over its nuclear weapons program.

Hundreds of tribal leaders in Iraq endorsed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's plan for national reconciliation, pledging Saturday to "work hard to stop ... sectarian killings that have nothing to do with our values." The plan offers amnesty to Sunnis not involved in terrorist activities and promises compensation to the families of Iraqis killed by government and US troops. No major Sunni groups have agreed publicly to support the plan, however, and a senior Shiite leader appealed for a referendum on autonomy for a region of southern Iraq that is rich in oil deposits. Meanwhile, a Sunni member of parliament, Tayseer al-Mashhadani, was freed by her captors two months after being kidnapped. The fate of five of her guards, however, remained unknown.

Hopes rose that one of the longest civil wars in Africa was at an end after Uganda's government and rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army agreed to a truce Saturday. It calls for both sides to put down their weapons and for the rebels, many of whom are children, to vacate their hideouts and gather at camps in neighboring Sudan as negotiators work out the terms of a permanent cease-fire. Nineteen years of fighting in Uganda have killed thousands of people.

Despite its minority partnership there, American oil giant ChevronTexaco was expelled from Chad, along with Malay-sia's Petronas. President Idris Deby said the two "have refused to pay their taxes." Chevron- Texaco denied the accusation. The move leaves ExxonMobil as the only remaining partner of a consortium that has been operating the impoverished country's oil sector. Deby also fired his oil minister and suspended two other cabinet members, allegedly for their involvement in negotiating the tax-payment schedule. Chad will manage the work that ChevronTexaco and Petronas had performed until new partners can be found, he said. Analysts suggested that those partners likely will be Chinese companies.

Acid rain resulting from a failure to enforce air pollution laws poses "a major threat to soil and food safety" in one-third of China, a senior government official was quoted as saying. In a new report, the deputy chairman of the standing committee of the National People's Congress said sulphur dioxide emissions from factories have risen almost 30 percent so far this decade, as local governments try to shield their industries in the midst of a burgeoning economy. China, which is to stage the 2008 Olympic Summer Games, has pledged to clean its air and has earmarked $175 billion for environmental protection measures over the next five years.

Heavily deforested Haiti was bracing for hurricane Ernesto, with civil defense officials warning that its rain bands could cause serious mudslides on hillsides that are stripped of trees. Top winds were in the range of 75 m.p.h. as the storm strengthened on a track that would take it over Cuba Monday and then into the Gulf of Mexico. In Louisiana, Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) said the "entire coast is on alert" because of Ernesto, the first storm to reach hurricane proportions this season. Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the region, made landfall there a year ago Tuesday.

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