Pope, in Remarks on Evolution,

Says World Is 'Intelligent Project'

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday reaffirmed creation as the driving force of the universe, describing the natural world as an "intelligent project" and rejecting scientific thought that regards the history of the universe as random and directionless.

The pope's remarks on evolution came one day after the Kansas Board of Education voted 6 to 4 to adopt new standards that cast doubt on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, though it was unclear whether the two developments were related.

In comments that echo arguments made by intelligent design advocates, the pope at his weekly audience described the world as a product of "creative reason, the reason that has created everything, that has created this intelligent project."

ASIA

* SEOUL -- The U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Alexander Vershbow, told a gathering of South Korean lawmakers that the United States would be willing to open a liaison office in North Korea as a gesture of goodwill on the road to that nation's nuclear disarmament.

"We are prepared to go down the road of normalizing our relations, negotiating a permanent peace agreement for the Korean Peninsula, open an office in Pyongyang, things that show in concrete ways that we have no hostile intention toward North Korea," Vershbow said at a breakfast meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul.

The comments came as a fresh round of six-nation talks aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons program continued in Beijing.

-- Anthony Faiola

EUROPE

* DARMSTADT, Germany -- A European spacecraft left Earth's orbit on a five-month, 220 million-mile journey to Venus. The European Space Agency said that the unmanned Venus Express lifted off from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and that mission control in Darmstadt activated the probe's instruments and immediately picked up a signal.

-- From News Services