Visiting Iranian negotiators won agreement in Moscow Tuesday that Russia will ship 80 tons of fuel for the controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant by next March, reports said. Iran's government had complained of Russian stalling on a supply deal that would allow the Bushehr plant to begin operating in September 2007 and be generating electricity two months later. But analysts said the agreement would add to Western concerns that Iran also plans to develop nuclear weapons. In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said his government "can't accept the possibility of Iranians having nuclear weapons."
"One last push" by the Bush administration to lure North Korea back into multilateral negotiations on its nuclear weapons program is likely in the next six weeks, Secretary of State Rice told The Wall Street Journal. Those negotiations have been stalled since last fall. Her announcement came amid indications that the North may be planning its first test of a nuclear bomb, a situation she said "isn't really acceptable." Ambassador to South Korea Alexander Vershbow, meanwhile, said the US is open to new approaches to North Korea, such as bilateral talks, if the latter promises to return to the negotiations.
A new call for the closure of schools that teach Islamist extremism in neighboring Pakistan was issued by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who said, "There will not be an end to terrorism unless we remove the sources of hatred." But as he spoke, a Taliban attacker exploded a bomb in troubled Helmand Province, targeting Muslims who'd gathered to decide which of them would make the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The attacker and 17 others died in the blast.
An angry Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called off talks Tuesday on forming a coalition government between his Fatah faction and Hamas. Abbas was to meet with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip, but would send an aide instead, informed sources said. Abbas reportedly was furious at being accused of holding back money he controls from thousands of civil servants, many of whom haven't been paid in months. A Fatah-Hamas coalition, Palestinians hope, would ease the concerns of Western donors, who cut off the flow of aid after Hamas was elected to head the government.
At least 20 women were arrested in Kismayo, Somalia, in a second day of protests at the takeover of the strategic city by militiamen of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). Protesters said the UIC – which acknowledged for the first time that it's being helped by foreign Muslims – "are Al Qaeda, and we do not want them." Meanwhile, the UIC called the reported sending of Ethiopian troops to support Somalia's weak interim government "a declaration of war." Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry regularly denies such claims and did so again Tuesday.
As expected, members of parliament elected Shinzo Abe as the youngest prime minister of Japan – and the first to be born after World War II. A conservative and a nationalist, Abe succeeds Junichiro Koizumi, one of the most popular heads of government in the nation's history. He advocates strengthened relations with the US and an enhanced role for Japan in world affairs. But he's also expected to make an early priority of reversing the deterioration in relations with China.
The Army officers who seized power in Thailand announced a temporary new constitution Tuesday, appointing themselves as advisers to whomever becomes interim prime minister. They did not rule out the possibility that their choice to succeed the ousted Thaksin Shina-watra may be a retired soldier. But Bangkok newspapers were reporting that ex-World Trade Organization chief Supachai Panitchpakdi tentatively had accepted the post.