Negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program "have reached a final phase," informed sources said Monday. But there was no apparent sign of agreement on how much energy assistance would go to the reclusive communist country in return for closing its main reactor at Yongbyon. Skeptics suggested that failure to agree to a deal this time could doom the negotiations permanently.

Iran is willing to return to negotiations over its nuclear program but won't agree to suspending the enrichment of uranium first, its leaders said Sunday. The announcement came as European Union foreign ministers agreed that their governments uniformly will enforce UN sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt enrichment. Senior Iranians also rejected Tuesday the US accusation that the highest levels of their government have been supplying Shiite militants in Iraq with armor-piercing roadside explosives.

Saddam Hussein's former vice president was resentenced Monday for his role in the deaths of Shiites in the Iraqi town of Dujail in 1982. The High Court ordered Taha Yassin Ramadan to hang, a decision that had been expected after an appeals court found his original sentence of life in prison was too lenient. Human rights groups and the UN's human rights chief had urged that Ramadan's life be spared.

Middle-class Venezuelans are making a run on the US and British embassies in Caracas, seeking visas to escape President Hugo Chávez's socialist rule, The Sunday Telegraph (London) reported. It said inquiries have risen to about 800 a day at the US mission alone and that a website,, receives 60,000 hits daily. Against that backdrop, Chávez has decided to target the food distribution system in one of his first uses of new power to rule by decree, the Industry and Commerce Ministry said. Supermarket chains and warehouses will be seized in cases where service is interrupted or their owners do not comply with government regulations, the ministry said.

Liberals cheered the decision by Portugal's government to legalize abortion after a national referendum on the matter Sunday produced a 59.3 percent "yes" vote. To be binding, however, the turnout needed to be greater than 50 percent, and it fell well short. Prime Minister Jose Socrates didn't say when legislation allowing abortion would be sent to parliament. But passage there would not appear to be in doubt because his Socialist Party holds an overwhelming majority.

A new strike and new demands for President Lansana Conte to resign sent security forces back onto the streets of Guinea's capital Monday after he sidestepped a pledge to share power with opponents by appointing a close confidant to be prime minister. At least three more people died in clashes with police. In another city, rioters burned a governor's office and a prison. As he did during last month's strike, Conte called a meeting with union and religious leaders to discuss ways to defuse the situation.

Worsening floods have forced 68,000 people from their homes in Mozambique, the Disasters Management Office said Monday, projecting that another 300,000 may have to evacuate by week's end. The situation arose when torrential rains upriver in Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe caused the Cahora Bassa Dam to overflow. Authorities said they expect more flooding than in 2001, when 700 people were killed and a half- million more were displaced.

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