The critical Jan. 25 election for a Palestinian parliament will be canceled if Israel proceeds with its vow to ban Arabs in Jerusa-lem from voting, Information Minister Nabil Shaath said. And for the first time, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hinted publicly that he would at least postpone the vote. Two senior Israeli officials said Wednesday that their government would not allow the voting in Palestinian areas of Jerusa-lem because of Hamas's participation. The organization, which is pledged to the destruction of Israel, is fielding a slate of candidates for parliament who are expected to do well. In raids Wednesday in the West Bank, Israeli forces killed a Hamas leader from Jenin.
Discussions resumed between representatives of the European Union and Iran on the latter's nuclear ambitions. But the session, at the French Embassy in Vienna, opened with the Iranians again demanding recognition of their right to enrich - on their own soil - uranium that could be used as fuel for warheads. A compromise proposal would transfer that process to facilities in Russia. For their part, the European representatives said they would not reopen negotiations, which ended in deadlock last August, but would "only listen to what the Iranians have to say, especially about research and development."
The third-largest zinc smelter in China was ordered to halt production after a spill of toxic waste forced the cutoff of muni-cipal water supplies in one city and threatened others downstream along the Beijiang River. The waste was identified as cadmium, which is used in batteries. The accident occurred during equipment maintenance and was the second of its type in a month. The earlier chemical spill, in northern Jilin Province, now has crossed into Russia's Far East and was expected to reach Khabarovsk, a city of 580,000 people, Wednesday.
President Vladimir Putin won a key victory from Russia's Constitutional Court on his initiative to abolish direct elections for regional governors. The vote of the 19-member panel was not announced, although two of its justices went public with their opposition to the ruling. Parliament last year upheld Putin's request to scrap the elections on grounds that he needed the power to appoint the governors as part of a strategy to better combat terrorism and improve overall management of the nation's affairs. The court was considering 15 appeals filed by democracy activists over the constitutionality of the move.
Pro-democracy activists defeated a motion that would have changed the way the leader of Hong Kong's government is selected, arguing that it did not "lead us at all toward universal suffrage." The motion, put before the territorial legislature by Chief Executive Donald Tsang, needed 40 votes to pass but won only 34 thanks to the activists. It would have doubled the number of members of the college of electors, which chooses the chief executive under the watchful eyes of China's rulers in Beijing, to 1,600 by 2007. "We cannot see how Hong Kong people can be deprived of equality and one person, one vote," a spokesman for the dissidents said.
Escalating the rhetoric over a US proposal to build a wall across their common border, the government of Mexico hired a Dallas public relations firm to promote a lobbying effort by American church, business, and community groups. Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez called the proposal, approved last week by the House of Representatives, "a stupid thing" and said Mexico is "not going to bear, is not going to permit, and will not allow" it. Amnesty International also criticized the proposal, saying it would be "a historic setback for human rights" and would "multiply the loss of life" by making illegal border crossings from Mexico more difficult. Last week, President Vicente Fox blasted the proposed wall, calling it "disgraceful."