Iran would be willing to enter into talks with the Bush administration "should it correct its behavior," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday. But he again accused the US of pursuing a foreign policy of aggression, oppression, unilateralism, and disrespect for other nations. He also said Iran would not talk with Israeli leaders because theirs is a "Zionist regime ... a usurper, and an illegitimate entity." His remarks came one day after he repeated an assertion that Israel would "disappear" soon. Iran proposed talks with the US in March and again earlier this month, both in the context of the war in Iraq. But it later withdrew the first offer.

Ahmadinejad has been pushing for his own candidate to be given the No. 3 position in the leadership of Al Qaeda, The Telegraph (London) reported Tuesday. Citing Western intelligence sources, it identified the candidate as Saif al-Adel, a former Egyptian colonel and Al Qaeda fighter who has been a guest of Iran since the fall of Afghanistan to a US-led coalition in 2001. He is on the FBI's list of most-wanted men. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are Al Qaeda's senior leaders. The Telegraph quoted an unnamed Western intelligence source as saying, "The prospect of Al Qaeda and Iran forging a close alliance is truly terrifying."

Despite the overhaul of the Palestinian government, it still will not recognize Israel's right to exist or accept a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict, a Hamas spokesman said Tuesday. "Our position in this regard remains unchanged," Fawzi Barhoum said. "We reject joining any government that recognizes Israel." But Moussa Abu Marzouk, another senior member of Hamas, said from exile in Syria that the organization would give Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas free rein to negotiate with Israel and that the new unity government under proposed technocrat Prime Minister Mohamad Shbair could substantially alter the policy on relations with the Jewish state.

Political leaders in Lebanon dug in their heels on two fronts Tuesday as the small but strategic nation appeared to slide closer to chaos. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah was quoted as saying the anti-Syrian cabinet of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has "zero credibility," will be ousted soon, and will be replaced by "clean government." Hizbullah has threatened to stage mass demonstrations to topple Siniora unless it was given enough additional posts in his cabinet to veto actions it didn't like. When the extra posts were not granted, five Hizbullah cabinet ministers quit. But Siniora said such demands were unacceptable and that a "tyranny of the minority" would not stand. Meanwhile, pro- Syrian President Emile Lahoud, in a letter to the UN, called the Siniora government's OK of a special tribunal for the suspected assassins of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri "illegitimate" and nonbinding. Lahoud said he must approve the tribunal.

After months of heated public argument, parliament in South Africa approved legislation Tuesday that recognizes same-sex marriage – a first for a continent where homosexuality is mostly taboo. The vote was 230 to 41. Despite its compromise language, both homosexual rights activists and traditionalists remained critical of the measure, and legal scholars have warned that it may be unconstitutional.

A state of emergency went into effect at midnight Monday in Chad, carrying with it a crackdown on privately owned fire-arms and censorship of the news media. The government of the central African country imposed the measures because of the spillover of violence from the neighboring Darfur region of Sudan. Attacks by armed raiders – almost always identified as nonblack Arabs – have killed almost 300 people in 20 Chadian villages this month and sent thousands of others fleeing for their safety. The government also confronts an insurgency by dissident soldiers, which it accuses Sudan of supporting.

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