Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared "a great victory" over the US as leaders of the Islamic republic gloated for a second day over a controversial new intelligence finding. He said the National Intelligence Estimate conclusion that Iran halted efforts to develop a nuclear weapon four years ago is the "final blow" to American efforts at pushing for further UN sanctions against the Islamic republic. China's ambassador to the UN appeared to agree, saying "now things have changed" because of the intelligence estimate.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas intends to ask international donors for a record $5.8 billion in aid between next year and 2010, the Associated Press reported. The request would almost double the assistance currently being provided. Abbas aides said the authority will pledge to cut back spending on its bloated bureaucracy and work to stimulate economic growth in return for the aid, which is needed because of the huge deficit accumulated after years of strife and Israeli "occupation."
Voicing a new complaint, Russia's foreign minister said the Bush administration has withdrawn a proposal for cooperation on the missile-defense system it hopes to build in eastern Europe. Sergei Lavrov pointed to plans for Russian monitoring of the system and for joint evaluation of threats that the US says are posed by Iran, calling them "a serious rollback" from what had been proposed by Secretary of State Rice in October. The issue is a major source of contention between the two countries, and Russian defense officials have said they could counter the proposed US system by deploying missiles of their own in Belarus.
The man once considered Russia's richest is expected to go on trial again – "probably in February" – for tax evasion, even though he's already serving an eight-year sentence for the same crime, his lawyer said. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former head of the giant oil company Yukos, must first read thousands of pages of evidence against him by Dec. 22. Another conviction could add up to 15 years to his sentence.
For the second day in a row, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack in Afghanistan's capital that caused heavy casualties. Thirteen people died when a the driver of an explosive-filled car rammed a bus carrying Army soldiers. On Tuesday, 22 people were hurt in an attack on a NATO convoy near the city's airport. Above, a fireman hoses down the scene of Wednesday's explosion.
With futures prices for crude oil retreating again, the 13-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries voted not to increase production for the time being. The decision appeared to reflect concerns that an increase would be counterproductive, since the price per barrel on international markets Wednesday was 10 percent below its recent record high. The cartel announced it will meet again Feb. 1 to review the situation.
Rebel forces in eastern Congo abandoned their base and withdrew to nearby mountains after an intense two-day fight with government troops, reports said. But casualties on the government side were heavy. The base, at Mushake, had been held since August by fighters loyal to dissident Gen. Laurent Nkunda. He has refused to rejoin the Army, saying he and his forces are defending the local Tutsi population against rival Hutu militants. Above, a Congolese soldier focuses in on a rebel position.
A $1.1 billion fund to help the insolvent pay their debts was promised Wednesday by Kuwait's government. But it rejected demands by lawmakers for a blanket takeover of all debts – even covering persons with the means to repay – since the emirate is flush with oil revenues. Indebtedness among Kuwait's 1 million people is estimated at $16.8 billion.