Israel urged the UN Security Council to sanction Iran for its nuclear program as the five permanent members agreed to begin work next week on what form such penalties should take. Meeting Wednesday, however, the US, Britain, France, Russia, and China – along with nonmember Germany – couldn't find unanimity on the exact sanctions to recommend since Iran has refused to stop enriching uranium. Among the possibilities: a trade embargo, a freeze of assets, a ban on travel by Iran's scientists, and a ban on other countries investing in the Islamic republic. Defant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday, "The day sanctions are imposed on Iran ... will be a day of national celebration."

With no evident progress in talks aimed at restoring self-rule to Northern Ireland, the British and Irish prime ministers threatened to call them to a halt. Protestant and Catholic leaders opened what were to be three days of meetings Wednesday, but neither side was willing to be the first to yield on two major issues: the makeup of a power-sharing government and a refusal by Catholics to accept a Protestant-dominated police force. Britain and Ireland have vowed to shut down the province's legislature if no deal is reached by Nov. 24.

Red Cross staffers accepted the handover of 74 dead Sri Lankan soldiers from Tamil rebels Thursday, a far higher number than the government acknowledged after the heaviest fighting yet between the two sides. The military already had recovered 55 of its dead. The casualties inflicted on the rebels could not be confirmed independently. Military spokesmen said they believed "around 200" Tamils had been killed. Still, the government said it remained committed to the peace talks scheduled for later this month. President Mahinda Rajapakse and his chief rival, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickramesinghe also agreed to work together on a solution to the Tamil conflict.

Late opinion polls gave former Economy Minister Rafael Correa a 16-point lead over his closest rival in Ecuador's presidential election Sunday. An ally of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez, he has campaigned on pledges to cut his nation's ties with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, to curb the influence of traditional political parties, and to pull the plug on the US military base at Manta, whose lease expires in 2009. If he can avoid a runoff, Correa would join Chávez, Bolivia's Evo Morales, Chile's Michelle Bachelet, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, and Nestor Kirchner of Argentina as leftist South American presidents.

New violence flred in troubled Oaxaca, Mexico, despite a two-day-old agreement by protest organizers to scale back demonstrations against Gov. Ulises Ruiz. His opponents were angered at the sight of civil servants trickling back to their jobs Wednesday and tried to intimidate them into returning home. Police then fired on the protesters trying to seize a government building. A radio station also broadcast appeals for protesters to intensify their actions as a federal Senate fact-finding committee visits the city, to show that the rule of law is broken. Ruiz has refused to quit, but the senators could file legislation to force him out.

Strong winds and soaring temperatures were making conditions difficult for emergency crews in Australia, where almost 300 wildfires were burning – some of them out of control. In the state of Victoria, thermometers hit 97 degrees F. Thursday, the hottest there in 100 years.

Novelist Orhan Pamuk, whose prosecution by Turkey's government alarmed free-speech advocates, won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Parmuk has been a central figure in Turkey's struggle to convince the European Union of its commitment to human rights, even though charges against him for "insulting Turkishness" were dropped in January. He told a newspaper last year that Turkey remains unwilling to come to terms with the World War I massacre of Armenians and the separatist campaign by Kurdish rebels.

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