UN inspectors reported finding another previously undisclosed nuclear program in Iran, raising new suspicions that the Tehran government hasn't been serious about its pledge to cooperate in stopping weapons proliferation. The finding, last September, was cited in a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It involved experiments with polonium, a radioactive element that has some industrial applications but also ensures that the chain reaction producing a nuclear explosion occurs at precisely the right moment. At least two other potential nuclear weapons-related findings by UN inspectors in Iran were reported last year.
The host government itself was lowering expectations for the new round of negotiations on North Korea's nuclear ambitions, which open Wednesday in Beijing. China's Foreign Ministry said the issue is "complicated, and seeking solutions is a long, drawn-out process." North Korea pledged to do its best "to make a good result," but insisted again on major economic and diplomatic concessions first before it would agree even to "freeze" its nuclear program. The US, Russia, South Korea, and Japan also will participate in the talks.
In one of his most blistering accusations to date, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said his Palestinian counterpart heads "a government of murder and lies" with which the Jewish state cannot negotiate peace. His remarks followed what he said was a half-hearted condemnation by Ahmed Qureia to Sunday's terrorist bombing of a bus in Jerusalem. Sharon and Qureia haven't met publicly since the latter assumed his post last November.
The UN will not return its foreign staffers to Iraq until "the security condition" improves, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said. He said the UN is committed to helping Iraqis form a "legitimate, democratic government based on the rule of law," but ruled out a "credible" national election until at least year's end.
With less than three weeks until the election he expects will return him to office, Russian President Vladimir Putin fired the last senior holdover from the era of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin. Putin said Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and his entire Cabinet were dismissed because of a desire to "delineate my position on what development course the country will take" after the March 14 vote. Rumors had circulated since the beginning of Putin's term four years ago that Kasyanov would resign.
At least 300 people died in a strong earthquake that shook northern Morocco, and authorities said it was almost certain the casualty count would rise sharply. The quake occurred in an impoverished rural area, many of whose dwellings could not withstand a major natural disaster, reports said.