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Iran offers to finance a Hamas-run government

TEHRAN - Iran offered Wednesday to fund a Hamas-led Palestinian government if the West cuts off aid. But Israel vowed to block any money from Tehran and warned the Palestinians against aligning with what it called "international pariahs."

Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, issued the pledge after a meeting with Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas political leader.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, the biggest Arab donor to the Palestinians, said it would continue that aid despite the prospect of a Hamas-led Cabinet, though it also expressed support for peace initiatives rejected by Hamas that allow for the recognition of Israel.

Confusion surrounds potential Mladic arrest

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro - Serb security officials insisted Wednesday talks were under way for the surrender of top war crimes suspect Gen. Ratko Mladic, despite denials by the government and the chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor.

Mladic is accused of orchestrating Europe's worst carnage since World War II - the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica in 1995 - and other crimes during Bosnia's 1992-95 war.

U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said Mladic was in Serbia "within reach" of authorities, but "remains at large."

Serbian authorities say they have made contact with Mladic, according to the Associated Press, which cited a security official it did not name. But the government maintains there has been no operation about a surrender.

British paper defends publication of diaries

LONDON - A British newspaper argued that it published excerpts of Prince Charles' diaries to show his political leanings. Charles charges that the Mail on Sunday newspaper violated his privacy by publishing extracts of a private diary he said was leaked by an ex-employee. Charles has not asked for damages but wants the return of seven other journals.

The newspaper contends that printing the diaries was in the public interest because they show the prince's political beliefs.

The diary, written after a visit to Hong Kong in 1997, describes China's leaders as "appalling old waxworks," which Mark Warby, a lawyer for the paper, called a political statement.

The journal, entitled The Handover of Hong Kong, or the Great Chinese Takeaway, was obtained by the paper, which published parts in 2005. On Tuesday, it was released to the media.

Along with political observations, it includes Charles' musings on the discomfort of the 14-hour flight to Hong Kong.

More Nigerian violence

LAGOS, Nigeria - Bodies littered the streets of the southern Nigerian city of Onitsha as the death toll from days of Christian-Muslim violence across this volatile West African nation rose to at least 93.

The sectarian violence was sparked by protests against newspaper caricatures of the prophet Mohammed. Witnesses said they saw at least 20 dead. Thirty people were killed in Onitsha a day earlier.

Elsewhere . . .

PHILIPPINES: It was another day of frustration Wednesday with no sign of survivors as rescue workers tried to find an elementary school buried by a landslide under 100 feet of mud. Heavy rain forced troops to call off work, and a two-ton drill brought in by U.S. Marines sat idle with its braces missing. Up to 300 children and teachers were thought to have been trapped in the school when a mountainside collapsed Friday.

BIRD FLU: Indonesia said a 27-year-old woman died of bird flu earlier in the week in Jakarta and authorities prepared to scour the capital for infected poultry. Also, India expanded a slaughter of chickens to halt the spread of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu in a southern state.

COSTA RICA: Nobel Peace Prize laureate Oscar Arias won Costa Rica's Feb. 5 presidential election by 18,167 votes, one of the country's closest races ever, according to results released Wednesday.

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