The English-language TV service of Iran aired the government's version of the video showing the confrontation between US warships and patrol craft from the Islamic republic. An accompanying audio track contained only standard chatter between radio operators from both sides, and an Iranian announcer called the incident of last Sunday morning "a routine and regular measure." Iran has denied that its craft threatened three Navy vessels, and the video showed no indication of what President Bush and the Defense Department have called a "provocation."

A new deadline for North Korea to finish disabling its nuclear facilities appeared to be offered by special US envoy Christopher Hill. The communist state missed its Dec. 31 target to fully divulge the scope of its nuclear activities. Hill, who indicated earlier this week that Western nations were prepared to allow the North more time, said Thursday that the report should be forthcoming by Feb. 25, when President-elect Lee Myung Bak of rival South Korea is scheduled to take his oath of office. He also said "there is no reason why" the North's nuclear program cannot be ended "in '08."

A US airstrike rained 40,000 pounds of bombs on suspected Al Qaeda hideouts in southern Baghdad Thursday, the heaviest such raid in two years. In a follow-up operation, American and Iraqi ground troops arrested 12 men and confiscated AK-47 assault rifles, other weapons, and documents. The soldiers also found two houses used for torture, a spokesman said. The operation was part of a new nationwide anti-Al Qaeda offensive.

Failing in his efforts to mediate the dispute over Kenya's presidential election outcome, African Union chief John Kufuor was expected to leave for home Thursday and turn over his role to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.Kufuor said he couldn't persuade President Mwai Kibaki and challenger Raila Odinga to meet face to face, although they agreed there should be an end to the violence that has wracked Kenya since the vote. He said both men were willing to work with Annan to resolve their differences.

A new stumbling block threatened peace talks in Congo Thursday as the delegation sent by rebel Gen. Laurent Nkunda suspended participation, claiming that authorities had tried to arrest one of its members. A spokesman for the rebels said they wouldn't return without "a guarantee of our security." A second rebel group walked out of the talks earlier this week, accusing President Joseph Kabila's government of caring only about the Nkunda situation.

Tamil separatist rebels in Sri Lanka said they hope to salvage the cease-fire from which the government formally withdrew last week. But in their first public response to that announcement, the rebels also said Thursday that they are prepared for full-scale war if one "is thrust upon us." They called on Norwegian mediators, who brokered the 2002 truce, to continue their work. In canceling participation in the cease-fire, President Mahinda Rajapakse said he envisioned a different role for the Norwegians.

Saying nuclear power is "tested, safe, and secure," the British government announced it will OK the building of six new reactors and invited energy utilities to submit plans to operate them. Environmental activists condemned the decision, arguing that it will divert resources from renewable energy programs. Existing nuclear reactors (one of them above) produce about 20 percent of Britain's electricity, but most of them are due to be retired in the next 15 years.

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