Iranian Condemns U.S.

During Address at U.N.

UNITED NATIONS -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned the United States on Wednesday as a country of unilateralism, militarism and privilege, and called on the United Nations to promote spirituality.

In an address to the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, Ahmadinejad, a religious conservative who took office last month, advanced broad concepts, including a proposal that the world body "institutionalize justice at the international level."

He offered no new proposals to resolve a dispute with the United States and Europe over his country's nuclear ambitions, but was due to address the General Assembly again on Saturday.

Ahmadinejad was not shy in challenging the United States, which hosts the headquarters of the United Nations in New York and accuses the Islamic republic of secretly pursuing nuclear weapons in contravention of international commitments.

"Greater power or wealth should not accord expanded rights to any member" of the United Nations, he said. "The host country should not enjoy any right or privilege over the rest of the memberships."

He also criticized "unilateralism, production and use of WMD [weapons of mass destruction], intimidation, resort to the threat or use of force and imposition of destructive wars on peoples for the sake of security and prosperity of a few powers."

ASIA

* BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- Indonesian police pulled out of Aceh province in a goodwill gesture as rebels prepared to hand over hundreds of weapons -- the most delicate phase in an accord to end three decades of fighting. The rebels are to surrender all their weapons by year's end.

* JAKARTA, Indonesia -- An Indonesian court sentenced a second Islamic extremist to death for helping to plot and carry out last year's suicide car bomb attack outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. Ahmad Hasan was found guilty of helping build the bomb that killed 10 Indonesians.

* KATMANDU, Nepal -- Police fired tear gas and beat protesters with batons as 7,000 people poured into the center of the Nepalese capital in continuing pro-democracy rallies. It was the largest demonstration in 11 straight days of protests against King Gyanendra's rule. About 200 people were arrested and 20 injured.

* SHOMALI PLAIN, Afghanistan -- Guerrillas killed seven Afghans carrying voter ID cards, while hundreds of rockets and other weapons were found buried in the desert near Kabul, raising fears of attacks on the capital before Sunday's parliamentary elections.

EUROPE

* MOSCOW -- A hearing for jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on an appeal of his fraud and tax evasion conviction got off to a rocky start, with his lawyer failing to show up and the prosecutor alleging he was stalling.

Khodorkovsky, founder of Yukos Oil Co., faces nine years in prison. His American lawyers have predicted the appeal process will be wrapped up in days, before their client has time to run for parliament in December. Under Russian law, Khodorkovsky can run as long as his appeal is underway.

However, with the announcement that attorney Genrikh Padva would be hospitalized indefinitely, the appeal process looked set to extend for weeks.

* MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin's first prime minister, now out of favor with the Kremlin, said he would run for president in 2008 and accused his former boss of crushing democracy and damaging the economy. Mikhail Kasyanov, 47, was targeted in July in a criminal probe over a luxury villa. He has denied wrongdoing.

THE Americas

* SANTIAGO, Chile -- Chile's Supreme Court said former dictator Augusto Pinochet can face criminal charges related to the disappearance and murder of at least 15 leftists during his 1973-90 regime. It was the third human rights case in which the court has removed his immunity from prosecution -- a privilege of former presidents.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* RAFAH, Gaza Strip -- Scores of Palestinians crossed from Gaza into Egypt late Wednesday before Egyptian security forces moved to close the border in an attempt to restore order three days after Israel left the territory.

The frontier was still porous hours after the clampdown, however, with about a dozen Egyptian police officers pushing back Palestinians on both sides of the border. Hundreds of Egyptian border guards were expected Thursday morning to enforce the closure.

* CAIRO -- Egypt's culture minister, Farouk Hosni, resigned over a fire last week that killed 42 people at a state-run theater in a Nile River farming town south of Cairo. The fire began when an actor knocked over a candle on stage.

-- From News Services