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U.N. sets deadline, so Iran walks out

By Wire services
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 13, 2003

VIENNA - The U.N. atomic agency told Iran on Friday to prove by the end of October that its nuclear aims are peaceful, issuing a tough resolution that Tehran's chief delegate condemned as reflecting Washington's appetite for "confrontation and war."

Iranian chief delegate Ali Akbar Salehi walked out of the meeting to protest the deadline, and the prospect of U.N. Security Council involvement, contained in a U.S.-backed resolution to a board of governors' meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"We reject the ultimatum in this draft," Salehi said, calling it a "disaster for the agency."

If the next board meeting in November rules Iran did not meet the demands in the resolution, it could rule Tehran in noncompliance of a part of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The board is obligated to report noncompliance to the Security Council, whose range of action reaches from criticism to economic sanctions.

Chavez referendum bid rejected in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela - Venezuela's election council Friday rejected a petition for a referendum on ending Hugo Chavez's presidency, a major setback in opposition efforts to oust the leftist leader.

The petition was thrown out because the signatures of millions of Venezuelans were gathered before the midpoint of Chavez's term, an election rule violation, said National Elections Council President Francisco Carrasquero. The council is considered an impartial body by rival political groups.

The decision dampened opposition chances of holding a vote by the end of the year. Opposition leaders vowed to launch a new signature drive Oct. 5.

Pope more alert on second day of Slovakia visit

BANSKA BYSTRICA, Slovakia - Clearly suffering, unable to walk and speaking with difficulty, Pope John Paul II rallied enough to greet thousands of faithful Friday and pay tribute to victims of the "dark days" of communism.

Battling his ailments, the pope pushed ahead with his Slovak pilgrimage, looking more alert than on his arrival 24 hours earlier.

The 83-year-old pope presided over a two-hour Mass for pilgrims braving a chilly drizzle in the central city of Banska Bystrica.

Later, in an address to bishops, the pope said he was delighted at the progress of the Slovak church "after the dark days of persecution and silence."

Also . . .

RWANDA GETS NEW LEADER: Raising his right hand and touching Rwanda's flag with his left, Paul Kagame took the oath of office Friday as the nation's first popularly elected president since the 1994 genocide.

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