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UN Security Council powers met Thursday in Vienna to OK a package of incentives aimed at halting Iran's nuclear program. But the Iranian government said it would not stop enriching uranium and would not "hold talks over it." Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki welcomed the US offer to join negotiations, but he said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's statement Wednesday "was not something new" and that any negotiations could only involve "mutual concerns." In Washington, President Bush said if the Iranians "continue their obstinance" the world "will act in concert."

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the senior US negotiator on nuclear issues, was invited for a visit by North Korea's government to "directly explain to us" how a deal agreed to last fall would be implemented. The agreement called for a package of economic aid and security guarantees in exchange for the North ending its nuclear weapons program. But no steps have been taken to fulfill the plan and the six-party negotiations on North Korea's weapons program have not been held in six months. The North blames the US for that lull. Analysts said the invitation suggests a continued commitment to the negotiations. Hill said the US would "consult with our partners" before replying to it.

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Firing into the air and smashing windows of the parliament building in Gaza City, thousands of Palestinian policemen protested the Hamas-led government's failure to pay their salaries. The demonstrators dispersed three hours later, but the incident aroused concern about new civil unrest over the issue. The participants were members of Fatah, which had controlled Palestinian affairs until Hamas's election victory in January. Hamas leaders said Wednesday they could pay only one-quarter of the Palestinian Authority's 140,000 civil servants. President Mahmoud Abbas has given the rival movements until Tuesday to resolve their differences. Otherwise, he said he'll schedule a referendum on the main sticking point: Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel, which has dried up international donations of aid.

What punishment - if any - should be imposed on two rebel groups in Darfur now must be decided by the African Union (AU), its chairman said, for their failure to sign a new peace agreement with Sudan's government. The Justice and Equality Movement and a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army missed a midnight Wednesday deadline set by the AU to accept the pact, although attempts to convince them to do so were continuing. The holdouts are demanding that the deal be amended, but the AU insists its terms are not negotiable. AU members said they'll meet in a few days to discuss sanctions, but it was not clear what those might involve.

Critics called the transfer by Taiwan's president of much of his power to Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang as a too-little and too-late attempt to deflect attention from corruption scandals nagging his administration. Chen Shui-bian said late Wednesday he'd yield responsibility for governmental policy to Su and no longer would intervene in the affairs of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. His opponents, however, are demanding that he resign in the wake of an insider-trading scandal. Chen's wife also is under scrutiny for accepting gifts from an upscale department store whose management sold it recently for less than the top bid.

The chief of special forces police in Chile was fired for "unacceptable excesses" in the treatment of high school students, who were blasted with water cannon and tear gas for a second straight day as they protested in the capital for increased funding of education. But new President Michelle Bachelet's government rejected an ultimatum that it respond to growing demands for educational reform by Friday or confront a nationwide strike by the students. Bachelet said the demands were being studied to determine which were viable. Another 100 demonstrators were arrested in Santiago Wednesday, on top of the roughly 600 who were detained the day before.


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