BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – Cabinet ministers from Hezbollah and an allied party resigned Saturday, a decision that could cost the Western-backed government crucial support from Lebanon’s Shiite Muslims.

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said he would not accept the resignations. He has the authority to order the five Cabinet ministers to stay on, but it was unclear if his weak government could enforce the demand.

The ministers of Hezbollah and the allied Amal party resigned because talks on forming a national unity government collapsed hours earlier, Hezbollah said in a statement broadcast by the Shiite guerrilla group’s Al-Manar television station. Hezbollah accused the government of “insisting imposing terms and premature results for negotiations,” the TV station said.

Talks with Iran ‘still possible’

MOSCOW (AP) – Russia’s foreign minister said Saturday he believed international talks with Iran over its atomic program were still possible, maintaining that Russia could help bridge differences with other negotiating partners, including the United States.

President Vladimir Putin met Saturday with Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, ending two days of talks that signaled a renewed Moscow effort to force Iran to freeze its uranium enrichment effort. Iran, however, has so far snubbed Moscow’s proposal to host its enrichment program.

The six nations agreed to hand the Iranian dossier to the U.N. Security Council after Tehran rejected their demand to suspend enrichment, but Russia and China opposed European-drafted sanctions and called for more talks.

Crowds mourn Turkish premier

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Tens of thousands of mourners helped bury Turkey’s late Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit on Saturday – a funeral that was disrupted when some in the crowd began booing the current premier to protest a feared rise of political Islam.

Ecevit, an ardent secularist and respected political force in Turkey for almost half a century, died Nov. 5 after nearly six months in a coma following a stroke. He was 81.

Among the dignitaries on hand to pay condolences was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is perceived by many pro-secular Turks as less dedicated to preserving Turkey’s strict division of mosque and state. Thousands booed his arrival, chanting “Turkey is secular and will remain secular!”

Somalia rejects peace initiative

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) – Somalia’s weak governmnt on Saturday rejected a new peace initiative by a renegade lawmaker and the Islamic movement controlling much of the southern part of the war-ravaged country.

The latest deal meant to calm Somalia was struck Friday in Mogadishu between the Islamic group and parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden. Aden acted without authorization, a government spokesman said Saturday.

The speaker is considered the government member most sympathetic to the Islamic movement, which the United States accuses of having ties to al-Qaida. His decision to hold talks without the cooperation of the prime minister and president was seen as a direct challenge to their authority.


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