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U.N. envoy urges Israel to relax restrictions

JERUSALEM -- Israel must provide more freedom of movement in the West Bank and open crossings into Gaza to avoid driving more Palestinians into poverty, the United Nations Mideast envoy said yesterday. Israel's decision to shut Gaza's borders to all but humanitarian aid in the wake of Hamas' takeover of the coastal strip two months ago is threatening a badly damaged economy, and "this shows every sign of getting worse," Michael Williams said. "An elementary constituent of economic development is freedom of movement, and to a very considerable extent that does not exist in the West Bank," he said. "We do not see how that can be changed short of opening additional crossing points, particularly Karni," Williams said, referring to Gaza's main cargo crossing with Israel.

U.S. envoy takes hard line on Iran

VIENNA, Austria --Iran's willingness to answer questions about its nuclear program will not save it from new U.N. sanctions, a U.S. envoy said yesterday, describing Tehran's new openness as an attempt to deflect "attention from its ... bomb-making capabilities." The remark by Gregory L. Schulte, chief U.S. delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, drew criticism from some diplomats, who suggested that Washington was trying to derail important progress in the Iranian nuclear negotiations in its drive to impose new U.N. penalties. The IAEA's 35-nation board will meet next month to discuss Iran, and the conflicting views suggest that the meeting could see Washington and its closest allies clash with countries less hawkish on Iran. Iran and the Vienna-based IAEA - the U.N. nuclear watchdog - said Tuesday that they had agreed on a timetable for Tehran to respond to lingering questions over its nuclear activities. In response to the announcement, Schulte accused Tehran of "clearly trying to take the attention from its continued development of bomb-making capabilities."

Scholar freed from jail unable to leave Iran

TEHRAN, Iran --An Iranian-American scholar released after months of imprisonment in Iran has no passport and cannot leave that country, where she is charged with endangering national security, her lawyer said yesterday. Haleh Esfandiari, 67, was released on bail Tuesday from Iran's notorious Evin prison, where she had been held since May. Her 93-year-old mother used the deed to her Tehran apartment to post bail. Esfandiari's family said their greatest worry is her frail health and mental well-being after months behind bars and that they hope she will be able to leave Iran soon. Esfandiari's lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, said her client has the legal right to leave the country but that authorities seized her passport in January and have not returned it or issued a new one. Iranian authorities have not indicated whether they intend to return her passport.

Spain's state TV ends bullfight coverage

MADRID, Spain --State-run Spanish television has quietly yanked live coverage of bullfighting from its programming, ending a decades-old tradition of showcasing the national pastime out of concern that it is too violent for children. Television Espanola, which televised its first bullfight from Madrid in 1948, will show no live bullfights this season for the first time in the network's history, only taped highlights on a late-night program for aficionados. In practical terms, the unpublicized decision by the Socialist government is largely symbolic. Of the hundreds of bullfights during the March-October season, state-run TV tended to broadcast about a dozen. Pay TV channels and stations owned by regional governments show many live bullfights.

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