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Briefs (left)

Europe Resists US On
Curbing Ties With Iran

By Steven R. Weisman

European governments are resisting Bush administration demands that they curtail support for exports to Iran and that they block transactions and freeze assets of some Iranian companies, officials on both sides say. The resistance threatens to open a new rift between Europe and the United States over Iran.

Administration officials say that a new American drive to reduce exports to Iran and cut off its financial transactions is designed to further isolate Iran commercially amid the first signs that global pressure has hurt Iran’s oil production and its economy. There are also reports of rising political unrest in Iran.

In December, Iran’s refusal to give up its nuclear program led the U.N. Security Council to impose economic sanctions. Iran’s rebuff is based on its contention that its nuclear program is civilian in nature, while the United States and other countries believe Iran plans to make weapons.

At issue now is how the resolution is to be implemented, with Europeans resisting American appeals for quick action, citing technical and political problems related to the heavy European economic ties to Iran and its oil industry.

Talks On Korea Nuclear Program
Set to Resume Feb. 8

By Joseph Kahn

China announced Tuesday that talks over North Korea’s nuclear weapons would resume in Beijing next week, the latest in a long series of negotiations that have failed to curb its nuclear program.

Discussions are set to resume Feb. 8 even though the United States and North Korea have not settled a dispute over freezing North Korean financial assets at a bank in Macau, a Chinese territory.

U.S. Treasury officials and their North Korean counterparts met Tuesday in Beijing to discuss US financial measures that have led to the freezing of $24 million in North Korean assets held at the bank, Banco Delta Asia. No breakthrough appeared imminent, but the discussions were scheduled to continue Wednesday.

The financial dispute overshadowed the last round of nuclear negotiations, which ended in a stalemate in December. Whether North Korea would bargain about its nuclear program while its money remained frozen was unclear.

Senators at Louisiana Hearing
Criticize Federal Katrina Aid

By Adam Nossiter

Three U.S. senators sounded off on Monday about the slow pace of recovery from Hurricane Katrina at a hearing in the French Quarter, criticizing federal officials for giving Mississippi a greater share than Louisiana and for imposing rules that are halting government aid.

With Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a presidential candidate, expected to speak at the hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, dozens of residents lined up outside the Louisiana Supreme Court building hoping to be admitted. But only a small fraction were allowed inside, where Obama jousted with Donald E. Powell, the federal coordinator of Gulf Coast rebuilding, about where the money was, and why more of it was not in Louisiana.

Obama and Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., focused on why Mississippi, with far less damage, had not received proportionately less federal aid. Powell said Congress had put a cap on how much aid money any one state could get.