A daily summary of top stories around the world.
On "National Nuclear Day," Iran's president announced that scientists now are enriching uranium on an "industrial scale." The announcement, on the first anniversary of Iran's initial success in that area, was seen as likely to deepen the worry of the US and other powers who believe Iran is working toward the assembly of nuclear bombs. Above, students in Tehran, the capital, carry a banner proclaiming, "Nuclear energy is our obvious right."
North Korea's government offered new assurances Monday that UN inspectors will be admitted to its nuclear facilities once they're closed. But each passing day makes it less likely that the deadline for idling them will be met, officials say. A delay in releasing $25 million worth of North Korean funds being held by a Macao bank is holding up the deactivation, and technical considerations make a complete shutdown by Saturday "very difficult," the officials said. Every delay "serves to turn [the North's nuclear] weapons development into a fait accompli," a prospective presidential candidate in rival South Korea warned.
The Taliban followed their beheading of a hostage by demanding again the release of two "commanders" from prison in Afghanistan. Otherwise, the militants said Monday, they'll execute five more people – members of an Afghan medical team and their driver – by the same method. In an editorial, the Arman-e-Millie newspaper said the government should respond to such threats by itself executing "criminal Taliban" in its jails. Above, newsstand customers in Kabul read of the hostage's death.
A new crackdown on radical Muslim clerics was pledged Monday by Saudi Arabia's Interior Minister. Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz said, "We see in them a greater threat than [is] coming from those who perpetrate" terrorist acts. In recent years, the government has reduced domestic terrorism via tough security measures, but critics say radical Islamic ideology remains strong.
Embattled Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont of Thailand checked into a hospital amid rumors that he might resign due to the military government's mounting problems. The news came as suspected Islamist separatists in southern Thailand burned another school to the ground and killed five more people, three of them fellow Muslims. Police say the separatists increasingly are targeting members of their own religious community to make it appear that the attacks are by rival Buddhists.
At least nine soldiers died and five others were hurt in a new attack by Islamist militants in Algeria, authorities said Monday. Six militants also were killed when military reinforcements arrived at the scene of an ambush 93 miles southwest of the capital, Algiers. A period of calm followed last summer's offer of amnesty to militants who surrendered. But fewer than 300 accepted its terms and violence since has picked up again. The latest incident was the third in a little over a month.
A majority of members of parliament in Ukraine upped the stakes in the bitter confrontation between President Viktor Yushchenko and Russian-leaning Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich Monday, saying they'd support a new national election only if it included voting for the chief executive. Such an election could cost Yushchenko, who is pro-Western, his job. He dissolved parliament and called an early election for May 27, although the legality of his order is under judicial review.
Onetime Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta was assured of at least a top-three finish as vote-counting began in East Timor's presidential election. But analysts said none of the eight candidates appeared likely to win an outright majority when official results are announced, perhaps as soon as Wednesday. That would require a runoff between the top two finishers next month – an eventuality that the analysts warned may only prolong instability in the fledgling nation.