Iran has become so strong militarily that no other nation would dare to attack it, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told TV interviewers Wednesday. He spoke as the UN Security Council prepared to consider yet another round of sanctions against the Islamic republic for refusing to halt its nuclear program. Iran also picked up support from neighboring Bahrain, whose parliament voted 39-0 (with one abstention) to ban the use of its territory as a staging base for any such military strike. The US Navy's Fifth Fleet uses Bahrain as its home port.
Senior negotiators for North Korea blamed the US for the delay inshutting its nuclear facilities, a commitment now almost seven weeks overdue. In talks with rival South Korea, the North also demanded delivery of promised food shipments. The communist regime refuses to close its Yongbyon reactor until it receives $25 million in funds that had been frozen in a foreign bank account under US sanctions. Other banks have been reluctant to accept the transfer of the funds.
Leftist President Hugo Chávez returned to his attack against nonstate-owned broadcasters, warning the news channel Globovision to "slow down [or] I'm going to slow them down." Chávez, who refused to renew the license of independent RCTV, causing it to go dark Sunday, said Globovision has encouraged attempts on his life. He also advised radio stations not to "manipulate" public sentiment. Globovision is the last main broadcaster that has taken an anti-Chávez line, but its signal does not reach the entire country.
The US predicted victory Wednesday when the UN Security Council votes on authorizing an international court to try suspects in the assassination of ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. As many as five Council members may abstain from the vote, but informed sources said they don't anticipate Russia or China casting a veto of the enabling resolution. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora asked for the vote because his parliament has refused to ratify statutes necessary for setting up a tribunal. Senior Lebanese and Syrian officials have been implicated in Hariri's 2005 murder.
Hundreds of Muslims outside cheered Wednesday as the highest secular court in Malaysia rejected the appeal of a woman to be recognized as a convert to Christianity. The judges ruled that only a religious court can decide the matter. Lina Joy, who'd sought to have "Islam" removed from her national identity card, argued that since her conversion she no longer is bound by Islamic sharia law. Above, a Muslim prays for denial of the appeal.
Army troops were sent to an area of northwestern India to restore calm after villagers fought with local police over a government affirmative-action plan. Fourteen people died in the violence Tuesday and at least 80 others were hurt. Appeals to leaders of the ethnic Gujjar community to end the protests were unsuccessful, reports said. Gujjars, a mostly impoverished tribe, demand to be included in a quota system that would give them access to government jobs and benefits.
For the second time this month, thousands of Chinese ransacked local government offices in a protest over rigid family planning policy. The Xinhua news agency said the incident Tuesday, in two towns in southern Guangxi Province, resulted in "some" injuries and arrests as the protesters fought with police; an eyewitness told Agence France-Presse that "many" people were hurt. The trouble began when the protesters demanded refunds of their fines for having more children than government policy allows.
HSBC, Europe's largest bank, pledged $100 million over the next five years to help pay for climate-change projects. The funds will go to cleanup efforts in four major polluted rivers and to promote environmental awareness initiatives in China and India.