Iran "can and will" take illegal action to continue its nuclear program if it is hit with additional sanctions, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said. He offered no specifics. The UN Security Council was to meet Wednesday on a draft resolution that proposes new penalties because of Iran's refusal to abide by the first set of sanctions. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the draft already had been softened at the Kremlin's insistence because "we will not support excessive sanctions against Iran."

A holdup in the transfer of $25 million in North Korean funds between banks kept the communist nation's negotiators from "substantive discussions" on shutting down their nuclear program for a second straight day. Russia's delegate to those talks reportedly said the Bank of China was refusing to accept the transfer from a bank in Macao for fear that it might become the target of sanctions imposed by the US if the deal to halt the weapons program collapses.

Islamist militiamen dragged at least five soldiers who'd been killed through the streets of Somalia's capital and set them on fire in scenes reminiscent of the "Black Hawk Down" incident involving American troops a decade ago. Some of the heaviest fighting since the interim government took over the lawless nation came as the commander of the African Union's peacekeeping mission appealed for reinforcements. Well under half of the planned 8,000-man force is deployed so far.

Fierce fighting between local tribesmen and foreign militants with ties to Al Qaeda was raging in northwestern Pakistan, and casualties reportedly were heavy on both sides. Intelligence sources said at least 78 militants had died versus about 30 tribesmen. Pakistan's government has urged residents of the region to confront the foreigners and hailed the fighting as proof that its strategy is working. Skeptics, however, saw the fighting more as a factional dispute.

Twenty-one alternate legislators were escorted into Ecuador's Congress under cover of darkness and sworn in Tuesday, giving it a quorum and President Eduardo Correa at least a temporary upper hand in his row with conservative opponents. The alternates replace dozens of elected members who'd been fired by the top electoral court for trying to block the April 15 referendum that Correa seeks on rewriting the Constitution. Thirty-six seats remain empty, although moves reportedly are under way to fill them with other alternates next week. The fired lawmakers blasted their replacements as traitors. Above, supporters of the ousted members protest Tuesday's actions.

Saying it was "natural," French President Jacques Chirac endorsed Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy's candidacy to succeed him in national elections next month. Sarkozy will quit his post Monday to concentrate on campaigning, he said. Although they represent the same political party and Sarkozy once was a Chirac protégé, relations between them have been strained for more than a decade, and Chirac's announcement was made with little warmth. Sarkozy holds only a narrow lead over Socialist rival Ségolene Royal in recent polls.

A bridge collapsed under the weight of an overloaded truck in southeastern Guinea, plunging it into a river and killing at least 70 people in one of Africa's worst road accidents in years, reports said Wednesday. The truck was hauling cement mix, rice, and oil, along with villagers who'd hitched rides because the area is poorly served by public transportation.

A coal mine owner was under arrest in northern China for covering up a gas explosion that killed at least 13 of his employees and trapped 21 others underground, reports said. Emergency crews were searching for the missing men after having to remove seals that had been placed on mine shafts. The blast happened late Sunday but wasn't reported until Tuesday by "people close to the company."

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