A report Thursday by the International Atomic Energy Agency was expected to show that Iran has failed to meet its deadline for suspending the enrichment of uranium. US government officials, anticipating such a finding, said Wednesday night that a meeting of high-level delegates from UN Security Council states, plus Germany, would convene next week to discuss the language of a new resolution on imposing diplomatic and financial sanctions on Iran. The council is expected to take up such a measure in earnest by mid-month. As time was running out on the UN deadline, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called his nation's pursuit of nuclear technology an "obvious right" that will never be abandoned.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan moved on to Syria's capital Thursday in his mission to solidify the cease-fire between Hizbullah and Israel, repeating the call for a lifting of the air and sea blockade of Lebanon that the Jewish state had rejected a day earlier. But there were signs that Israel would at least pull its ground forces out of Lebanon. In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi left a meeting with Israel's No. 2 leader, Shimon Peres, saying the latter had told him the withdrawal would begin as soon as the UN's peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon reached 5,000 troops. Italy is expected to lead the force.

Responsibility for security in a second province of Iraq will be taken over by government troops and police later this month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday. He identified it as Dhi Qar, where Romanian and Italian troops currently are deployed. Romania's government said Wednesday that many of its soldiers in Iraq would be withdrawn in "45 to 60 days." Most of Italy's 1,600 troops there are expected to return home by year's end. Dhi Qar is in southern Iraq, as is Muthana Province, where British forces turned over control to the government in July.

A task force of up to 17,000 UN troops was approved by the Security Council Thursday for Sudan's Darfur Province. But it won't be sent without the consent of the government in Khartoum, which so far has refused permission. A resolution establishing the mission passed by a 12-to-0 vote, with Russia, China, and Qatar abstaining. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been unwilling to OK any other peacekeepers to replace an African Union (AU) force in Darfur. But the AU mission has been unable to halt the lawlessness there and, reportedly, has only enough funding to continue operating until Sept. 30, when its mandate expires.

Bombs exploded almost simultaneously in 22 of the 30 banks in Thailand's Yala Province Thursday, killing two people and wounding 28 others. Police said the blasts were triggered by cellphone signals and that closed-circuit security cameras revealed that some of the devices had been planted by women and youths dressed in school uniforms. The plotters appeared to have timed the attacks for the end of the month, when depositors crowd banks to cash their paychecks. Yala is one of three southern provinces in which militant Islamists have been waging a violent campaign for separatism.

Although downgraded to Category 3 status, hurricane John could dump as much as 18 inches of rain on areas of Mexico's Pacific coast, meteorologists warned Thursday. All along the coastline, emergency crews were on alert for severe flooding, landslides, and property damage. Tourist resorts already had emptied of guests or were reporting canceled bookings. The storm was tracking at 14 m.p.h. parallel to the shore but still could make landfall Friday or over the weekend, forecasters said.

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