Russia to send missiles to Iran

TEHRAN, Iran - Russia is preparing to equip Iran with a powerful new air-defense system that will dramatically increase its ability to repel an attack, Iran's defense minister said yesterday.

The S-300 antiaircraft missile-defense system is capable of shooting down aircraft, cruise missiles, and ballistic-missile warheads at ranges of more than 90 miles and at altitudes of about 90,000 feet. Russian military officials boast that its capabilities outstrip the U.S. Patriot missile system.

"The S-300 air-defense system will be delivered to Iran on the basis of a contract signed with Russia in the past," Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said, according to state television. Najjar did not say when or how many of the S-300 antiaircraft missile-defense systems would be shipped to Iran, and Russian officials declined to comment.

- AP

Colombia to let Chavez get trio

CARACAS, Venezuela - Colombia agreed yesterday to allow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to send his planes and helicopters into its territory to pick up three hostages who have been held for years by leftist rebels.

Chavez said he hoped that the hostages - including a mother and her young son - could be on Venezuelan soil by sundown today.

Colombia's largest rebel group announced last week that it would unilaterally hand over the three hostages to Chavez, demonstrating the guerrillas' affinity for the socialist leader. Chavez had been trying to negotiate the release of 47 high-profile captives until Colombian President Alvaro Uribe abruptly called him off last month, saying Chavez overstepped his mandate by directly contacting the head of Colombia's army.

- AP

North Korea says aid is delayed

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea indicated yesterday that it would slow the disablement of its nuclear facilities because of what it said was a delay in receiving economic aid under an international deal.

Economic compensation pledged by the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia in return for North Korea's disabling its nuclear facilities by the end of 2007 "is being delayed," said Hyon Hak Pong, vice director-general of North Korea's Foreign Ministry, according to footage from the broadcaster APTN.

A State Department spokesman said that he was not aware of any slowdown in aid and that "we expect further heavy-fuel-oil shipments and other energy assistance to move forward in the near future."

- AP

Elsewhere:

Serbia's parliament

overwhelmingly adopted a resolution yesterday that threatens to halt the country's integration into the European Union and cut off diplomatic ties with Western countries if they recognize Kosovo's independence.

The number of candidates

challenging the Kremlin's choice for president dwindled yesterday when the leader of a pro-business party quit the race.

Japan's Education Ministry announced yesterday that it would partly reinstate references in textbooks to the military's role in forcing civilians to commit mass suicide during the Battle of Okinawa in the final months of World War II.