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Communist Party Congress Opens in China

Chinese President Hu Jintao promised to address social fissures, a degraded environment and rampant corruption during his second term as China’s top leader, but he all but ruled out more than cosmetic political reform in his opening address on Monday at the ruling Communist Party’s 17th National Congress.

Hu spoke extensively about his “scientific view of development,” a set of lofty, vague principles supporting harmonious economic, social and political development.

The congress will enshrine the phrase “scientific view of development” into the party’s constitution alongside the political slogans of Mao, Deng Xiaoping, and Jiang Zemin, elevating Hu into the pantheon of leaders as he begins the second and final term as party general secretary, head of state and military chief.

This speech kicked off the week-long event held once every five years to extol past leaders and welcome a roster of younger officials newly elevated to leadership roles. Party members have described the succession contest, conducted in secret, as fractious. But the congress proceedings, which are purely ceremonial, present a facade of seamless unity and continuity.

Putin Confirms Trip to Iran Despite Reported Threat

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Monday he would travel to Tehran for a meeting of Caspian Sea nations despite a report by a Russian news agency of a possible assassination plot against him there that was immediately dismissed by Iran.

During a news conference following talks here with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Putin said he would go ahead with the trip to Tehran on Tuesday, on a visit that is also likely to focus on Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

“Of course I am going to Iran,” he said. “If I always listened to all the various threats and the recommendations of the special services I would never leave home.”

A spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, dismissed the assassination report as disinformation spread by those wanting to spoil Russian-Iranian relations. “Such kinds of false news will not have any impact on the plans that we have for Putin’s visit,” Hosseini said in a news conference on Monday.

U.N. Envoy Says Myanmar Must Halt Arrests

A U.N. envoy said here Monday that arrests in Myanmar “must stop at once” and that the international community must do more to curb repression by the ruling junta.

The envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, had arrived in Bangkok on Sunday to begin a six-country consultation tour of Asia before heading to Myanmar to resume talks with the government that began early this month.

“We could do more, not just Thailand,” he said. “India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and the United Nations, we could do more.” But it was not clear what more he — or the international community — could do to influence the behavior of a junta that appears not to care what the world thinks. It has isolated itself by choice for the past half century and has managed quite well with the help of a few self-interested friends.

After the junta suppressed huge pro-democracy demonstrations by force at the end of last month, the United States announced new sanctions against it, but that action seemed only to underscore the limits of outside influence.