9 March 2006 Edition

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International News in Brief

Iran

Iran said it is not ready to "bargain" over its bid to master sensitive nuclear work, despite an immediate risk of punitive action from the UN Security Council.

"Nuclear research will go on, and threats, propaganda and bullying will not affect us," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters, referring to the country's controversial uranium enrichment work.

The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meets on Monday and is expected to clear the way for the Security Council to consider acting against Iran over fears that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

International concerns are centered over Iran's bid to master uranium enrichment. Tehran says it only wants to make reactor fuel, but the process can be extended for the purposes of creating nucler weapons.

South Korea cuts troops in Iraq

South Korea's planned one-third cut to its military presence in Iraq will begin next month, a general in charge of South Korean troops in the Middle East told Yonhap news agency. South Korea's parliament approved a defence ministry plan in December to reduce its 3,200 troops in the northern Iraqi town of Arbil to 2,300 this year.

South Korean troops have represented the third largest contingent in the US-led allied forces in Iraq, being exceeded only by the US and British. The Seoul government, however, has been under pressure to pull out its troops since the killing of a South Korean translator in Iraq in June 2004.

Taiwan

Taiwanese authorities have rebuffed comments by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, warning against the island's independence movement. Wen issued the warning while addressing the opening of the National People's Congress annual session at Beijing, pledging that "we will uncompromisingly oppose secessionist activities aimed at Taiwan independence."

When asked to comment on recent remarks by Wen, Huang Wei-feng, deputy chief of Taiwan's China policy decision-making body Mainland Affairs Council, told reporters: "It was nothing new at all. We are not surprised. They have been doing this all the way. Didn't they say they have hinged their hope on Taiwan people? But as a matter of fact, they have no idea what Taiwan people are thinking and what they want," Huang said

Sri Lanka

Tamil Tiger rebels said Sri Lankan security forces aided an attack on a checkpoint that killed two of their soldiers in the first clash after truce talks in Switzerland last month. The attack on the rebel checkpoint on Saturday was the first since the peace talks in Switzerland, where the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) agreed to abide by a 2002 ceasefire.

The defence ministry denied any involvement and accused the Tigers of putting out a "meticulously fabricated" report to discredit government forces in the area.

The LTTE has said the Sri Lankan government supports a breakaway rebel faction as a proxy for attacks on rebel-held areas in the island nation's restive northeast. The military denies the claim.

During talks in Switzerland last month, both the Tigers and Colombo agreed to stop a spate of killings in violation of the ceasefire since December that left at least 153 dead. The government also agreed that paramilitary units should be disarmed or disbanded.


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