By consensus, the International Atomic Energy Agency governors voted Thursday to suspend just under two dozen technical aid transfers to Iran because of its suspect nuclear program. Thirty-three other transfers will remain in place, but they involve mostly medical and agricultural applications. In the IAEA's 50-year history, only North Korea and Iraq have been denied such aid, also because of concern over the diversion of nuclear projects for bombmaking.
For the second straight day, North Korea abruptly ended negotiations with Japan over restoring normal relations, and no date for a resumption was set. "It is time for Japan to move on," North Korea's senior representative said after the other side sought to discuss kidnapped citizens in the 1970s and '80s. But Japan's chief delegate said his side wouldn't hesitate to keep raising the issue. North Korea seeks an apology for Japan's colonial rule of the last century. Japan says there can be no apology without diplomatic ties. The talks are an outgrowth of the six-sided negotiations over the North's nuclear program.
Taliban chiefs claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of an Italian journalist in Afghanistan, accused him of being a spy, and boasted that 8,000 to 9,000 "well-equipped" fighters are ready for a major spring offensive against NATO forces. The newspaper La Repubblica, for which Daniele Mastrogiacomo works, rejected claims that he had been gathering intelligence for NATO and said he was there "exclusively and solely to write news reportages."
At least 11 civilians were killed and two African Union (AU) peacekeepers were wounded Thursday in the second major attack this week by Islamist militants in Somalia. But a spokes-man for the AU mission said, "The attacks and threats do not set [us] back." About 1,200 of the planned 8,000-man peacekeeping force are in Somalia so far to support the transitional government and its efforts to organize a peace conference with the militants next month.
TV time was reserved for Sunday night by French President Jacques Chirac amid expectations that he'll announce he is not seeking a third term. Voters will choose a new leader in a two-stage election April 22 and May 6, with most opinion polls showing Chirac would lose if he ran again. Analysts said they want to see whether he throws his support to Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, a onetime protégé, who holds a narrow lead over Socialist candidate Ségolene Royal and centrist François Bayrou. Relations between Chirac and Sarkozy since have become strained.
Political war burst into the open in Ecuador as the Supreme Electoral Court retaliated for the firing of its chief justice by trying to dismiss 57 members of Congress who'd voted for his ouster. Constitutional experts called the court's move a "flagrant" violation of the national charter. But new leftist President Rafael Correa, who seeks to curb the power of opposition parties in Congress, said he will "respect and comply with" the action.
The interior minister, the national police chief, and the director of prisons in Guatemala resigned Wednesday in the political scandal that President Oscar Berger said has "overwhelmed" his government's achievements. It began Feb. 19 when three members of the Central American Parliament and their driver were found shot to death. A police squad that was arrested for the murders was itself wiped out six days later in a maximum-security prison while awaiting trial.
Seventeen men escaped but 15 others died in an explosion inside a coal mine in China's Hunan Province, reports said Thursday. The mine was operating with an expired permit, and police were searching for its manager. China's mines have a notorious safety record, and accidents have increased in tandem with the demand for energy to fuel the booming economy.