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Iranian leaders professed no concern at the referral of their nuclear program to the UN Security Council for the possible imposition of economic and political sanctions. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the referral late Wednesday by foreign ministers of the council's permanent members "arrogant" and warned of "harm [to] the interests of everyone" if the US, in particular, chose to cause problems for his country. He repeated familiar assertions that Iran has the right to nuclear technology and a warning that it could stop cooperating with UN inspectors and could withdraw from the nonproliferation treaty if pressure continues.

Diplomatic efforts to bring communist North Korea back into six-sided negotiations over its nuclear weapons program collapsed Thursday, and rival South Korea announced it will suspend food aid until those talks resume.

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With Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki looking on, Iraqi forces assumed responsibility for security over an entire province Thursday. The handover by British and Australian troops in Muthanna, 168 miles southeast of Baghdad, was the first since the war in Iraq began three years ago. Maliki's goal is to assume control of all 18 provinces by the end of next year. He told Muthanna Gov. Mohamed Ali al-Hassani, "Terrorists will do their utmost to make this experiment fail, but we promise we will ... give you all the support you need."

Taliban remnants took more heavy losses in Afghanistan Wednesday and Thursday in clashes with coalition soldiers in volatile Helmand Province. At least 19 Taliban were killed in a failed attempt to wipe out a police headquarters, and one of their local leaders died in a separate incident. The latest casualties brought the number of deaths to more than 700 since coalition forces began Operation Mountain Thrust in mid-May to clear southern provinces of Taliban resistance. Meanwhile, in Kabul, police arrested a seventh terrorist in two days as he was planting a bomb outside the Information Ministry.

The ruling party, its leading opponent, and three fringe political blocs in Thailand were given 15 days to say how they'll defend themselves before the nation's highest court. Its justices said Thursday they'll hear lawsuits alleging that the parties committed fraud in the disputed April 2 election, which was won by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai Party after an opposition boycott. The election was annulled because of a too-low turnout, but Thai Rak Thai is accused of paying the fringe parties to run candidates to make the outcome appear legitimate. The opposition Demo-crats are charged with trying to obstruct campaigning and with encouraging voters to spoil their ballots. A new election is scheduled for Oct. 15, but analysts said it's unlikely that the case will be decided by then.

A disappointed Foreign Ministry in Argentina said it would "come back to argue the case later" after the World Court ruled Thursday that construction of two paper mills on the border with Uruguay may continue. The justices said work on the $1.9 billion project posed no immediate threat to the environment, despite Argentina's claims to the contrary. But they also said Uruguay "bears all risks" if, in consideration of the larger question of whether the mills are legal, the decision is in Argen-tina's favor. That ruling is not expected for many months.

Another offer to send in troops was made by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva late Wednesday after suspected criminal gangs carried out 71 new attacks in São Paulo State. At least six people were killed and police stations, branch banks, supermarkets, and buses were firebombed or riddled with bullets. A similar wave of attacks allegedly ordered by imprisoned gang leaders two months ago resulted in almost 200 deaths. State Gov. Claudio Lembo said federal help wasn't necessary.


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