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Briefs (left)

Dissent Weakens
Coalition Pressuring Iran on
Nuclear Program

By Helene Cooper

After months of missed deadlines, threats and counterproposals in the effort to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the fragile coalition of six world powers that has been facing down Tehran may be about to splinter.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sounded fed up Thursday with Russia’s refusal to sign on to the list of Security Council sanctions the United States would like to see enacted against Iran.

A senior administration official in Jordan with Rice said the United States would soon be ready to force the issue by calling for a vote.

“Unity is not an end in itself,” Rice told reporters, in answer to a question about whether the United States was willing to sacrifice a tough sanctions resolution in order to keep the Russians on board. “I’m all for maintaining unity, but I’m also all for action.”

Rice’s comments came during a roundtable with reporters on the outskirts of a democracy meeting with Arab leaders in Jordan.

Scientist Says Concrete was
Used in the Pyramids

By John Noble Wilford

In new research on the great pyramids of Giza, a scientist says he has found more to their construction than cut natural limestone: Some original parts of the massive structures appear to be made of concrete blocks.

If true, historians say, this would be the earliest known application of concrete technology, some 2,500 years before the Romans started using it widely in harbors, amphitheaters and other architecture.

Reporting the results of his study, Michel W. Barsoum, a professor of materials engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, concluded that the use of limestone concrete could explain in part how the Egyptians were able to complete such massive monuments, beginning around 2550 B.C. They used concrete blocks, he said, on the outer and inner casings and probably on the upper levels, where it would have been difficult to hoist carved stone.

“The sophistication and endurance of this ancient concrete technology is simply astounding,” Barsoum wrote in a report in the December issue of The Journal of the American Ceramic Society.

Ripples Keep Spreading in a
Chinese Bribery Case

By David Barboza

Three multinational companies were named in a court verdict this month that sentenced the former head of China Construction Bank to 15 years in prison for accepting more than $500,000 in bribes, according to a copy of the court verdict.

IBM, NCR and Hitachi of Japan were named and identified as having worked through a Chinese middleman or consultant named Zou Jianhua in an effort to sell information technology services to the state-owned Chinese bank in 2003 and 2004.

The 20-page court verdict from the No.1 Intermediate Court in Beijing said that while he was serving as the chairman of China Construction Bank, Zhang Enzhao met with senior managers from IBM and NCR on multiple occasions with his longtime friend, Zou, who was acting as a middleman between the bank and several companies.

The court verdict said the middleman, Zou, collected large “service fees” from IBM and NCR and that Zou later passed valuable gifts on to the bank chairman, including a massage chair, a pair of Tiffany watches and a luxury apartment in Shanghai worth about $330,000.