Oil to N. Korea to Be Reconsidered

An international group that oversees foreign energy assistance to North Korea will meet next week to discuss a possible suspension of U.S. oil shipments to that country, an official said yesterday.

The administration has been considering a cutoff of these shipments in response to North Korea's disclosure that it is enriching uranium as part of a nuclear weapons program.

The Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, comprising the United States, South Korea, Japan and the European Union, will meet at its headquarters in New York on Thursday to try to reach a consensus on whether the shipments should continue.

A shipment of U.S. oil left Singapore on Nov. 6 for North Korea. U.S. officials have said that if KEDO decides to scrap the oil assistance, the vessel would be turned around and the delivery canceled.

The United States has been providing 500,000 metric tons of heavy oil to North Korea annually since 1994. The shipments were to continue until two light water reactors were completed in North Korea.

U.S. May Enter Countries Unwelcome

Even if local governments don't agree, U.S. forces may launch assaults into lawless or poorly governed areas around the world to go after terrorists hiding there.

"We make every, every effort to work with countries, most of whom are very eager to get rid of the al Qaeda," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke told a news conference. "But . . . without speculating where, there may be circumstances when we go into an ungoverned area in pursuit of al Qaeda," she said on the question of getting local permission first. "I'll just leave it at that."

The question arose as officials talked about stepping up counterterrorism efforts around the Horn of Africa, where there are vast lawless or poorly governed regions in a number of countries.

Iran Criticized for Harsh Sentence

The United States accused Iran of breaking international standards of due process by sentencing to death a reformist who questioned the right of the clergy to rule the Islamic republic.

An Iranian court sentenced Hashem Aghajari, a close ally of President Mohammad Khatami, on Wednesday. The verdict is likely to send shock waves through Iran's reformist movement, many of whose members have defended his right to free speech.

"The trial and the extraordinarily harsh sentence against Iranian reformist Hashem Aghajari, merely for exercising his right of free expression, represents a breach of accepted international standards of due process," said Frederick Jones, a State Department spokesman. "We are gravely concerned about this case, which indicates a deteriorating human rights situation in Iran."

-- Compiled from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters