Nuke inspectors get access to sites
VIENNA | Iran has lifted a yearlong ban and allowed United Nations’ inspectors to visit a nearly completed nuclear reactor and has also granted greater monitoring rights at another atomic site, diplomats said Thursday.
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors visited the nearly finished Arak heavy-water reactor last week, the diplomats told the Associated Press. Separately, they said Iran agreed last week to IAEA requests to expand its monitoring of the Natanz uranium-enrichment site, which produces material for nuclear fuel that can be further enriched to provide fissile material for warheads.
The diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity because their information was confidential.
The agency had been seeking additional cameras and inspections of the Natanz site to keep track with the rapidly expanding enrichment program, which - if modified - can make the fissile core of warheads.
40 dead in clash with insurgents
MOGADISHU | Fighting between government soldiers and Islamic insurgents killed at least 40 people in central Somalia on Thursday as the warring sides tried to gain ground in strategic towns.
Witnesses also reported seeing troops from neighboring Ethiopia roll into the country - a development that would enrage insurgents who saw Ethiopia as an occupying force after it helped drive out Islamists in 2006.
The insurgent group al-Shabab, which has foreign fighters in its ranks, operates openly in the Somali capital of Mogadishu and seeks to overthrow the government and impose a strict form of Islam in Somalia.
The fighting started Thursday in Bula Burte, about 130 miles north of Mogadishu, when government soldiers moved into the town controlled by al-Shabab. The United States says the group has ties to al Qaeda, which al-Shabab denies.
Border restrictions on travelers lifted
SEOUL | North Korea announced Thursday that it was scrapping tough border restrictions imposed on South Korean travelers, the latest in a series of conciliatory moves after months of hostility.
The North’s military said it would as of Friday remove the cross-border restrictions imposed in December as relations with Seoul soured, according to the South’s unification ministry.
North Korea also promised to temporarily restore a telephone hot line manned by the Red Cross that both countries used before it was axed in November.
Meanwhile, in New Mexico, diplomats from the North’s U.N. mission held talks with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a veteran of negotiations with Pyongyang in the 1990s. Mr. Richardson said Wednesday that they had “productive” discussions.
Entertainer found dead in jail
JERUSALEM | Israeli entertainer Dudu Topaz - whose turbulent struggle to deal with his waning stardom enthralled the country - died Thursday after apparently hanging himself in the shower of his jail cell, prison officials said. He was 62.
Mr. Topaz, one of Israel’s most famous television stars, had been in jail for several months since the start of his trial for purportedly hiring thugs to assault top Israeli media executives he blamed for keeping him off the air.
The prison officials said Mr. Topaz was found hanging in the shower of his cell.
Mr. Topaz, a diabetic, had already attempted suicide once in prison by injecting himself with an overdose of insulin, police said.