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Briefs (left)

Iran Proposes New Talks
With Europeans

By Elaine Sciolino

Apparently in an effort to win international support and avoid censure by the U.N. Security Council, Iran on Tuesday proposed a resumption of nuclear talks with the Europeans, a move that was immediately rejected by Britain as “vacuous.”

The proposal came eight days after Iran resumed nuclear work at three sites in violation of an agreement 16 months ago with France, Germany and Britain that froze most of Iran’s nuclear activities. The resumption prompted the European trio to declare the talks dead and call for the Security Council to pass judgment on Iran.

In a letter on Tuesday, Javad Vaeedi, deputy head of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, emphasized Iran’s determination to “continue its full cooperation” with the International Atomic Energy Agency, adding that Iran “spares no effort in removing any ambiguity on its peaceful nuclear activities through dialogue and negotiation,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by The New York Times.

Blair Denies Bush Threatened
To Bomb Al-Jazeera

By Alan Cowell

The British government denied Tuesday that a leaked memorandum at the heart of a contentious trial contained a threat by President Bush to bomb Al-Jazeera, the Arabic-language television station.

The government had previously withheld substantive comment on a report in The Daily Mirror last year that Bush made the threat in a private conversation with Prime Minister Tony Blair at the White House in April 2004 — a time when American commanders in Iraq were publicly critical of Al-Jazeera’s coverage of the war in Iraq.

The Daily Mirror reported that Blair had dissuaded Bush from bombing the Qatar headquarters of Al-Jazeera. The White House called the report outlandish. The British government warned other newspapers that they would be breaking the law if they also published details of the leaked memo.

The British government issued the denial a week before a British civil servant and a researcher employed by a parliamentary lawmaker are to face trial under the Official Secrets Act on charges relating to the leaked memo.

Kiss and Tell:
She Kisses and the Parrot Tells

By Sarah Lyall

“Hiya, Gary!” the parrot trilled flirtatiously whenever Chris Taylor’s girlfriend answered her cell phone.

But Taylor, the owner of the parrot, did not know anyone named Gary. And his girlfriend, Suzy Collins, who had moved into his apartment a year earlier, swore that she didn’t, either. She stuck to her story even after the parrot, Ziggy, began making lovey-dovey, smooching noises when it heard the name Gary on television.

And so it went until the fateful day just before Christmas when, as Taylor and Collins snuggled together on the sofa, Ziggy blurted out, “I love you, Gary,” his voice a dead ringer for Collins’.

“It sent a chill down my spine,” Taylor, a 30-year-old computer programmer from Leeds, told British reporters on Monday. “I started laughing, but when I looked at Suzy I could tell something was up. Her face was like beet root and she started to cry.”

Gary, it turned out, was Collins’ former colleague and current secret lover.