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Briefs (left)

Indian Minister Quits Post
Amid Kickback Allegations

By Hari Kumar


The Indian foreign minister, Natwar Singh, resigned Monday, as pressure mounted over allegations that he and the governing Congress Party had collected kickbacks from the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq.

Singh, 74, a veteran Congress Party politician, is among the most visible proponents of India’s ambition to hold a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council. He is to remain a Cabinet minister without portfolio in the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but he will be relieved of his foreign ministry duties, the prime minister’s office announced in a statement late in the day.

Earlier on Monday, the prime minister’s office appointed a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations against Singh, to be headed by a former Indian Supreme Court chief justice.

Singh was named in a report by a U.N. commission headed by Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, which investigated accusations of abuse of the oil-for-food program.

Bush Endorses Canal Widening

By Elisabeth Bumiller


President Bush on Monday endorsed widening the Panama Canal and cited progress in reaching a free-trade agreement with Panama’s president, Martin Torrijos, whose friendly reception here was in sharp contrast to some of the hostility that Bush has encountered on a four-day trip to Latin America.

But Bush, after saying “we’re getting close” on the trade pact between the United States and Panama, said Democrats might block it in Congress, and blamed them for holding up recent trade deals.

“We’re going to have to work the Congress,” the president said at a joint news conference with Torrijos at Casa Amarilla, or the Yellow House, a 17th-century mansion that houses the Foreign Ministry and overlooks the Bay of Panama.

Bush added that in the past, the Democratic Party “had free-trade members who are willing to make the right decisions based not on politics, but based on what’s best for the interest of the country, and that spirit has dissipated in recent votes.”

Qualcomm Accuses Nokia
Of Patent Infringement

By Dan Bilefsky


In an escalating legal battle, Qualcomm said on Monday that it had filed suit against Nokia, accusing the mobile phone maker of infringing on a dozen patents related to GSM, a cell phone standard that is used in two out of three handsets worldwide.

The suit, filed on Friday in a federal court in San Diego, comes after several companies — including Nokia, Ericsson, Texas Instruments, and Broadcom — filed a complaint on Oct. 28 with the European Union, charging that Qualcomm offered lower royalties on its cell phone chip patents if customers also bought the chips.

The lawsuit intensifies an already fierce battle over one segment of the mobile phone business: the growing market for handsets with multimedia functions like music players and cameras.

Robin Hearn, an analyst at Ovum in London, said that Qualcomm, based in San Diego, was retaliating to make sure it holds on to its patent royalties, a principal source of income. “I have been expecting a meaty response,” Hearn said. “They’ll probably get their spat over with, cuff each other in the face and come to some agreement.”