World digest 12/22/05

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Negotiators agree to revive Iran nuke dialogue

VIENNA, Austria -- Iranian and European negotiators tentatively agreed Wednesday to meet next month, signaling a possible new start to negotiations to restrain the Tehran regime's nuclear program and reduce fears it is trying to make atomic bombs. Still, diplomats familiar with the closed-door meeting conceded no progress was made on the main issue -- Iran's insistence on its right to enrich uranium, which is a process that has peaceful uses but also can produce the core of nuclear weapons.

Coca activist wins Bolivian presidency

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Nearly complete official returns Wednesday showed coca activist Evo Morales winning Bolivia's presidency, getting 54.2 percent of the vote with more than 92 percent of polling places tallied. Morales would also be Bolivia's first Indian president. The 46-year-old Aymara Indian has vowed not only to halt U.S.-backed coca-eradication programs but to turn over "vacant, unproductive" land to poor farmers and expand Indian rights, while increasing state control of Bolivia's vast natural gas reserves. On Tuesday, he said he would not allow free production of coca, but promised a study to determine if demand for legally grown coca warrants raising production.

Elton John ties the knot with longtime partner

WINDSOR, England -- Britain's most famous gay couple -- Sir Elton John and Canadian filmmaker David Furnish -- tied the knot Wednesday in a much-anticipated ceremony that capped the first week of legalized civil unions in the United Kingdom. John, 58, and Furnish, 43, were among hundreds of same-sex couples taking advantage of a new British law offering same-sex couples a legal status similar to marriage. The law took effect Wednesday in England and Wales. Ceremonies were held earlier this week in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Loser drops challenge of Liberian election results

MONROVIA, Liberia -- The loser of Liberia's first postwar presidential elections dropped his legal challenge of the results Wednesday, saying he would accept the outcome in the interest of national reconciliation. Former soccer superstar George Weah said he decided not to take his allegations of vote tampering to the Supreme Court, clearing the way for the Jan. 16 inauguration of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as Africa's first elected female president. Weah's postelection allegations of fraud in a vote that international observers deemed largely clean sparked riots in the capital, Monrovia. On Wednesday, he sounded a conciliatory note, pleading for peace in a country still reeling from a brutal 1989-2003 civil war that left 200,000 dead.

Palestinians may delay January elections

RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' aides talked openly Wednesday about the possibility of postponing Jan. 25 parliament elections that pit the ruling Fatah Party against the increasingly popular Islamic militant group Hamas. The aides cited Israel's threat to ban voting in Jerusalem for the potential delay, denying that was merely an excuse to put off what could be a trouncing at the polls. Abbas and the Israelis both dismissed the speculation.

Japan's population falls in 2005 for first time

TOKYO -- Japan's population dropped this year for the first time on record, the government said. The Health Ministry's annual survey showed deaths outnumbered births this year by 10,000 -- the first time that had happened since such data were first compiled in 1899, ministry official Yukiko Yamaguchi said.

-- From wire reports

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