Iran will defy the UN by continuing to enrich uranium, no matter what the International Atomic Energy Agency reports Friday on the status of its nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a national TV appearance. IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei is expected to tell the Security Council that Iran has neither stopped enrichment nor fully answered questions about its other nuclear activities. The council could impose punitive sanctions - although such a move is opposed by China and Russia, which hold veto power - or could try to make its demand on enrichment legally binding.
A Thursday night signing ceremony was scheduled in Jerusalem by Israel's Kadima and Labor parties to certify their agreement to form a coalition government. Political observers said the deal, reached after weeks of negotiation, could allow Prime Minister-designate Ehud Olmert to announce his cabinet choices early next month. Olmert and Kadima won the most votes in Israel's March 28 general election, but with too few seats for a majority in parliament. Labor finished in second place. The agreement reportedly gives Labor seven cabinet posts, among them the Defense Ministry, which will go to party leader Amir Peretz.
A return to civil war appeared closer than ever in Sri Lanka after another day of violence in which five government soldiers died and five others were wounded in attacks blamed on Tamil rebels. The government said it had halted airstrikes on Tamil areas and that they wouldn't resume as long as the rebels do not target "civilians and our military headquarters." But police found the decapitated remains of five males on a rubber plantation near the capital, Colombo, and were trying to determine whether their deaths were linked to the recent surge in violence.
Further easing the political tensions in Nepal, its communist rebel movement declared a three-month cease-fire in the campaign to topple the monarchy. A spokesman for the government newly reinstated by King Gyanendra said he expected it to reciprocate by announcing a truce of its own, withdrawing arrest warrants for rebel leaders, and inviting them for negotiations on the nation's future. Gyanendra yielded to intense pressure earlier this week and allowed the parliament he'd dissolved last year to reconvene. He appointed ex-Prime Minister G.P. Koirala to return to that post, although Koirala reportedly was ill and it was unclear when he could take up his duties.
For his participation in an anti-government rally Wednesday, Belarus opposition leader Alexander Milinkevich was convicted and sentenced to 15 days in jail in a trial that lasted an hour. Other opposition figures drew similar sentences in an apparent new crackdown on dissent by hard-line President Alexander Lukashenko. The rally in Minsk, the capital, had official permission. But Milinkevich had been warned not to attend and some demonstrators took a route that had been declared off-limits. Lukashenko defeated Milinkevich decisively in the March 19 national election, but the opposition as well as international monitors declared it fraudulent.
A four-month dispute between impoverished Chad and the World Bank appeared all but over, three days before the deadline set by the former for shutting its crude oil pipeline. In a statement, bank officials said they'd resume payments to the government to maintain its oil industry and for development programs, AIDS education and treatment, and other uses because "there is no longer a problem." In return, Chad pledged to spend 70 percent of its oil revenues on antipoverty programs. The bank suspended payments in January after President Idriss Deby said he wanted to use the revenues to buy weapons that would be used to quell a rebel insurgency.