Russia confirms

selling Iran arms

MOSCOW - Russia's defense minister said yesterday that Moscow had sold air-defense missiles to Iran, the first high-level confirmation that their delivery took place despite U.S. complaints.

"We have delivered short-range Tor-M1 missiles to Iran in accordance with the contract," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told reporters. He did not specify how many missile systems had been delivered, but a ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said not all of the systems under contract had been delivered.

Ivanov's comments were the first official confirmation of the sale; previous reports had cited unidentified officials.

- AP

Authors appeal

'Da Vinci' ruling

LONDON - Lawyers for two authors who say the novelist Dan Brown stole their ideas for his blockbuster, The Da Vinci Code, urged Britain's Court of Appeal yesterday to overturn Brown's earlier victory in the copyright infringement case.

Lawyers for Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who face a legal bill of more than $2 million if the earlier verdict stands, said the lower court ruling "was based on a misunderstanding of the law and of the claim."

Baigent and Leigh say Brown stole significant parts of their book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail to use in his novel. Both books are based on a theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married and had a child, and that the bloodline continues to this day.

- AP

Bush vows to work with new U.N. chief

WASHINGTON - President Bush pledged yesterday to work with the United Nations' new leader for peace across war-torn and troubled areas of the world.

Bush met in the Oval Office with Ban Ki-moon, the new U.N. secretary-general. Talking with reporters later, Ban called the situation in the Middle East a "source of grave concern," saying: "Iraq and elsewhere needs an urgent attention of the international community."

Posing for pictures with Ban, Bush said that "the United States wants to work with the United Nations to achieve a peace through the spread of freedom."

- AP


Royal Dutch Shell evacuated staff from two oil installations in southern Nigeria and the military boosted troop levels in the area yesterday after a dozen village elders were killed in a riverboat attack, officials said.

Somalia's prime minister, Ali Mohamed Gedi, said yesterday that the first African peacekeepers being dispatched to help the government assert its authority over the country were expected to arrive within two weeks.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair signaled yesterday that he expected to still be holding his post in June, saying he planned to attend the Group of Eight summit in Germany at the start of the month. Blair said in September that he planned to retire within 12 months, without giving more details.