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Iraq's required report to the UN on its weapons programs is "very disappointing," senior British government officials said. The Financial Times quoted a spokesman as saying the declaration fails to meet concerns about chemical, biological, and nuclear programs and that "there is a lot we think is missing." Meanwhile, in Austria, the first samples gathered by UN inspectors in Iraq arrived at a laboratory, where scientists said they'd be able to tell if there's any evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime has a clandestine nuclear bomb program.

Dissident Iraqi exiles extended their conference on forming a transitional government if Hussein is toppled. Meeting in London, they said such unresolved issues as membership on a policymaking committee for Iraq's future and whether to hold a national referendum on what type of regime the country should have would require at least another 24 hours.

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Claiming the worst is over in Venezuela's two-week-old general strike, President Hugo Chávez told news media interviewers his government is "recovering ground" against its political opponents. He said he has ordered imports of gasoline, milk, and rice to counter panic buying as consumers worry about shortages due to the strike. And he repeated his vow to serve out his term, which is due to end in 2007, ruling out an early resignation unless the strike brings anarchy that leaves the nation ungovernable. In response, strike organizers called for an escalation of street protests.

In an about-face, former hard-line Bosnian President Biljana Plavsic changed her "not guilty" plea to crimes against humanity and acknowledged covering up atrocities against non-Serbs in the republic's 1992-95 civil war. Her lawyers said the move showed unconditional remorse for her role in the killing, expulsion, and other cruelty at the hands of Serbs even though the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague still could sentence her to life in prison.

Two opposition candidates for president abruptly pulled out of last weekend's election in Equatorial Guinea before voting was complete, leaving no serious challenger to incumbent Teo-doro Obiang Nguema. Both said their withdrawal was in protest at electoral fraud. Obiang, who has held the post since 1979, is expected to coast to victory, with official results due by tomorrow. The small west African nation is fast becoming an important producer of crude oil.


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