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Hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned the European Union "in plain language" not to back proposed sanctions against his government over its suspected nuclear weapons program. As rep- resentatives of the US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia opened a conference on the matter Tuesday, Ahmadinejad said Iran would consider EU support for any penalty "an act of hostility and ... will reconsider relations with you." Germany is the EU's representative at the talks.

Thousands of people turned out for the funeral of a pro-Syrian Shiite demonstrator in Lebanon Tuesday as the commander of the Army reportedly warned that daily protests aimed at toppling the government are weakening the military's neutrality. Gen. Michel Suleiman's remarks were notable, analysts said, because military chiefs are not pemitted to make political statements. Hizbullah, which is sponsoring the antigovernment protests, said they will continue until anti-Syrian Prime Minister Fuad Siniora resigns.

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An ultimatum – disarm the feared janjaweed militiamen by Dec. 31 or else – was issued by the leader of the only Darfur rebel group to sign a peace agreement with Sudan's government. Minni Minawi of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) didn't say what it would do if its deadline was not met. But an aide hinted that it would renege on the treaty. That could bring a collapse of the deal, on which the UN is pinning its hopes for peace in the troubled region. The pro-government janjaweed fought with SLM members Monday in the looting of a Darfur market, and at least two of the latter were killed.

The chief public prosecutor in Russia tossed a roadblock in front of British police investigating the poisoning death of exiled former spy Alexander Litvinenko. He said the visiting investigators would only be permitted to "attend" interrogations of two suspects in the case and that arrests and extradition to Britain "would be impossible." The Kremlin had promised full cooperation in the case, which is politically sensitive because Litvin-enko had been granted asylum in Britain. Before his death, he accused President Vladimir Putin of ordering his assassination, which the Kremlin hotly denies. Italy's government also is pressing for answers because security expert Mario Scara-mella, who was Litvinenko's last known contact, also has tested positive for the same poison that killed him.

A hidden bomb exploded in a produce stall in Muslim-dominated southern Thailand Tuesday, killing two more people and wounding 18 others – some of them seriously. The market in Yala Province was crowded as shoppers took advantage of a holiday in honor of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's birthday. The attack, blamed on separatist guerrillas, was at least the third to be reported already this month. Forty-seven attacks in the last two weeks of November killed 25 people.

Calm returned to the streets of Bangladesh's capital Tuesday after the caretaker government asked for major changes in the planning and organization of the Jan. 21 general election. But while the 14-party opposition alliance called off its national transportation strike, it held out the possibility of a resumption if the changes were not "going in the right direction." The rival Nationalist Party said it wouldn't accept a rescheduled election. At least 44 people have been killed in five weeks of political unrest over the issue of election reform.

While greatly diminished in strength, typhoon Durian lashed Vietnam with 73 m.p.h. winds, and reports said it was responsible for the deaths of at least 50 people. Forty-six others were missing, and the nation's storm-control center said almost 19,000 homes were destroyed or damaged and more than 800 fishing boats were sunk. In the Philippines, where Durian's 165 m.p.h. winds struck over the weekend, authorities raised the casualty count to 526 deaths.


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