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Nuclear technicians in Iran are enriching a new quantity of uranium, The Washington Post reported Wednesday on the eve of the UN Security Council's deadline for halting such work. The newspaper said the International Atomic Energy Agency would disclose the activity Thursday, while noting that it appeared to be at a slow pace and at levels too low for use in a nuclear weapon. Still, the Security Council has ordered Iran to halt all enrichment by Thursday or risk the imposition of financial and diplomatic sanctions. In another development, Iranian news agencies reported the release from detention Wednesday of Ramin Jahanbegloo, a writer and lecturer on democracy who was arrested in April for trying to undermine clerical rule. His arrest brought international condemnation, although Iran said he had confessed.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan insisted that "there isn't that much ... difference" between himself and Israel's leader despite the rejection of his demand for an immediate lifting of the air and sea blockade of Leb-anon. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Annan that Israel also would not withdraw its troops from Lebanon until the UN's cease-fire there is fully implemented. The rebuff also appeared to blunt the optimism of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who said he believed diplomatic efforts to end the blockade would succeed "in the next few days." Saniora vowed, however, to have no direct contact with Israel and said his country would be the last in the Arab world to sign a peace agreement with the Jewish state.

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UN Security Council members are expected to vote Thursday on authorizing a 20,000-man peacekeeping mission for Darfur, the Sudanese province that is considered to have the world's worst humanitarian crisis. US Ambassador John Bolton predicted the resolution would pass, although Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has blasted it as a thinly veiled attempt by the US and Britain to "recolonize" his country. Bashir, who repeatedly has rejected the idea of a UN force, lavished praise Tuesday on the African Union troops serving a similar mission in Darfur. The AU's mandate expires Sept. 30. However, the State Department said Bashir had agreed to send an envoy to Washington to discuss a UN replacement force.

Tamil separatist rebels warned Wednesday that a new offensive by government forces in northeastern Sri Lanka would put "a full stop" to the 2002 cease-fire between them. Army troops were in Day 2 of an attempt to capture Sampur, a town held by the rebels that puts their guns within range of vital Trincomalee harbor. Both sides claim to have inflicted heavy casualties. The rebels have vowed never to give up Sampur. Meanwhile, European monitors of the truce accused government troops of responsibility for the execution- style deaths earlier this month of 17 people who worked on tsunami-relief projects for the international aid group Action Against Hunger. All but one of those killed were ethnic Tamils.

Balking at the wishes of leftist President Evo Morales, members of Bolivia's constitutional convention forced a delay in voting on a measure that critics see as a power grab. Action still could come by week's end, but late Tuesday assembly members failed to agree on whether a rule requiring a two-thirds majority should apply. The 255-member body has a year to write a draft charter that Morales envisions as a means of reversing the nation's centuries-old domination by descendants of the European minority. But opponents worry that his call for the assembly to act without being answerable to Congress or the courts could lead to a dictatorship.


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