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Researcher claims solution to P vs NP math problem

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vinay Deolalikar, a mathematician who works for HP Labs, claims to have proven that P is not equal to NP. The problem is the greatest unsolved problem in theoretical computer science and is one of seven problems in which the Clay Mathematics Institute has offered million dollar prizes to the solutions.

The question of whether P equals NP essentially asks whether there exist problems which take a long time to solve but whose solutions can be checked quickly. More formally, a problem is said to be in P if there is a program for a Turing machine, an ideal theoretical computer with unbounded amounts of memory, such that running instances of the problem through the program will always answer the question in polynomial time — time always bounded by some fixed polynomial power of the length of the input. A problem is said to be in NP, if the problem can be solved in polynomial time when instead of being run on a Turing machine, it is run on a non-deterministic Turing machine, which is like a Turing machine but is able to make copies of itself to try different approaches to the problem simultaneously.

Mathematicians have long believed that P does not equal NP, and the question has many practical implications. Much of modern cryptography, such as the RSA algorithm and the Diffie-Hellman algorithm, rests on certain problems, such as factoring integers, being in NP and not in P. If it turned out that P=NP, these methods would not work but many now difficult problems would likely be easy to solve. If P does not equal NP then many natural, practical problems such as the traveling salesman problem are intrinsically difficult.

In 2000, the Clay Foundation listed the “Clay Millenium Problems,” seven mathematical problems each of which they would offer a million dollars for a correct solution. One of these problems was whether P equaled NP. Another of theseseven, the Poincaré conjecture, was solved in 2002 by Grigori Perelman who first made headlines for solving the problem and then made them again months later for refusing to take the prize money.

On August 7, mathematician Greg Baker noted on his blog that he had seen a draft of a claimed proof by Deolalikar although among experts a draft had apparently been circulating for a few days. Deolalikar’s proof works by connecting certain ideas in computer science and finite model theory to ideas in statistical mechanics. The proof works by showing that if certain problems known to be in NP were also in P then those problems would have impossible statistical properties. Computer scientists and mathematicians have expressed a variety of opinions about Deolalikar’s proof, ranging from guarded optimism to near certainty that the proof is incorrect. Scott Aaronson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has expressed his pessimism by stating that he will give $200,000 of his own money to Deolalikar if the proof turns out to be valid. Others have raised specific technical issues with the proof but noted that the proof attempt presented interesting new techniques that might be relevant to computer science whether or not the proof turns out to be correct. Richard Lipton, a professor of computer science at Georgia Tech, has said that “the author certainly shows awareness of the relevant obstacles and command of literature supporting his arguments.” Lipton has listed four central objections to the proof, none of which are necessarily fatal but may require more work to address. On August 11, 2010, Lipton reported that consensus of the reviewers was best summarized by mathematician Terence Tao, who expressed the view that Deolalikar’s paper probably did not give a proof that P!=NP even after major changes, unless substantial new ideas are added.

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Wikinews interviews 0 A.D. game development team

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

0 A.D. is a historical, open source, strategy game, published by Wildfire Games. It focuses on the period between 500BC and 500AD. The game will be released in two parts: the first covering the pre-AD period, and the second running to 500AD. With development well underway, Wikinews interviewed the development team.

Aviv Sharon, a 24-year-old Israeli student responsible for the project’s PR, compiled the below Q&A, which the full team approved prior to publication.

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Indonesian parliament approves privatising of three major state firms

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The parliament of Indonesia has approved government plans to make an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of shares in three major state-owned firms, privatising them. They are steelmaker Krakatau Steel, Bank Tabungan Negara (BTN) and national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.

The parliament has left the process fully in the hands of the government, and has set the maximum stake to be sold at 30% for BTN and Krakatau, and 40% for Garuda. Although Indonesia has been known to fund budget deficits with privatisation, the intention is for the funds from this scheme to go to the businesses themselves to allow expansion.

Krakatau expects 3.2 trillion Rupiah (IDR) from the sale, while the estimated price for their stock is between IDR3 and IDR4 trillion (321 – 428 million USD). Both ArcelorMittal SA, the biggest steelmaker in the world, and BlueScope Steel Ltd, the largest in Australia, have expressed an interest in the IPO. Krakatau will use the funds to help finance an expansion scheme which aims to have production doubled to five million tonnes in 2011.

BTN, which focuses on home owner loans, has set itself a target income of IDR36.12 trillion (3.86 billion USD) in 2010 compared to a projected IDR22.9 trillion ( 2.45 billion USD) this year. Net profit for this year is projected at IDR472 billion (50.5 million USD)and is hoped to rise to IDR1.39 trillion (148.7 million USD) in 2010. The bank’s loan to deposit ratio is predicted to rise from 105.05% this year to 144.93% in 2012. BTN hopes to conduct its IPO before the end of 2008.

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Garuda is not quite 100% state-owned to start with, unlike the other two, but is very close with 95.44% of the company belonging to the government. Like all of Indonesia’s 51 airlines, Garuda is on the list of air carriers banned in the EU due to safety concerns raised after a string of air accidents in the nation. Garuda expects to raise IDR4.2 trillion (449.4 million USD) in funds from the IPO, and will use IDR2.5 trillion (267.5 million USD) to pay off its debts and invest IDR1.7 trillion (181.9 million USD) in new aircraft.

The government is still working to get a deal to make IPOs for architectural firm Yodya Karya and three plantation firms called Perkebunan Nusantara III, IV and VII.

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US – India nuclear deal sent for US Congress ratification

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement, which gained waiver from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Vienna on September 6, 2008, will be ratified by the US Congress to remove 34 years of sanctions against India, following a nuclear device testing in 1974.

NSG’s India specific waiver allows India to join a select club of nations free to have nuclear weapons, without the international watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) breathing down its neck. The waiver comes after strong opposition from China, New Zealand and Austria amongst a few others. However consensus for the waiver prevailed after India reiterated its commitment to non-proliferation and voluntary unilateral moratorium on further nuclear tests.

With a USD 100 billion nuclear trade possible over the next 10 years, a number of countries including France, Russia and Canada are all vying for a piece of action. Meanwhile India has agreed to the US request to hold back discussions with others till US Congressional ratification so as not to prejudice the US firms.

Latest reports indicate that US administration is working overtime to ensure a smooth passage for the deal in Congress session that began on Monday and trying to persuade the lawmakers not to insist on the mandatory 30 day rest period required to present the agreement for approval. It is also confirmed that U.S. President George W. Bush will welcome Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on September 25, 2008 for joint signing of the agreement.

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Manitoba’s flood creating hazardous conditions

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Red River at Winnipeg is almost clear of ice blocks and ice jamming, however there are still dangers from the Red River flood.

Ice blocks which were as high as two storey buildings were ripping out trees, fences and railway ties. “You’ll see huge pans of ice standing vertical, up to 20 feet (6 m) high,” said Steve Topping, an official with the provincial Water Stewardship Department. “Ice was shoved up on the shore and took out trees with a very devastating effect. It has changed people’s view of the river.”

“It is incredible, the force. One piece of ice pushed out of the river about 20 feet. You watch the force push this up right in front of your eyes,” said Dean North, of the Selkirk Golf and Country Club.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police are ticketing sight seers who are driving through road closure signs and approaching excavators, cranes and crews breaking up the ice. Vehicles, people, boats, and kayaks are getting in the way.

An eight year old boy is in critical condition after slipping on a culvert Thursday. He was pulled underwater by the speed of the flowing water and remained under for about five to ten minutes until adults could rescue him. The air ambulance supplied by Alberta’s STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society) remains in the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“This is not a spectator sport. It’s not about getting the best pictures for the family albums. I know floods are seen as a bit of an event, but some of the instances I’m hearing about, people should give their head a shake, they really should,” said Steve Ashton Manitoba Emergency Measures Minister, “Those who fall into the river or get into trouble in another way would be not only endangering themselves but the emergency response crews trying to rescue them. I don’t want to see a situation … where we’re trying our darndest to prevent flooding and save lives and somebody [who] decides to go have a white-water experience ends up killing themselves.”

Early Easter Sunday morning floodwater reached the rural municipalities of St. Andrews and St. Clements north of Winnipeg. Residents were sent an evacuation advisory Good Friday, however some residents remained. Rescue efforts commenced Saturday night to find those stranded and unable to leave as their vehicles cannot travel in the swollen overland floodwaters. Some people were rescued from roof tops as entire houses were swept off of their foundations by the large ice blocks hurtling down the river.

Highways in the area remain closed. Neil Gobelle, of Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation said to “definitely continue to watch the Red River Valley and north of the city up in the Selkirk area. Things are changing quite a bit, quite quickly, so we’ll keep an eye on those areas.”

As of Easter Sunday, Winnipeg is expected to be ice free on the Red River. The River rose 4 feet (1 m) in the course of 24 hours. Rain is in the forecast and the higher temperatures of 17 °C (62.6 °F) will cause melting of snow and ice.

A weather system caused by La Niña is being watched by the United States National Weather Service and its potential effects between April 16-18 for residents along the Red River Valley. “We want people to be aware there is a very real possibility of the river going higher than what is out there,” said Mark Ewens, data manager at the NWS, “To have spring floods like this back-to-back is just an unfortunate series of events that have come along to plague us this spring. We’re wanting people to understand that this is a potentially serious problem.”

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Bush, Brown threaten further sanctions against Iran

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have promised new sanctions on Iran if the Gulf country continues to enrich weapons-grade uranium.

At a joint press conference in London today, Brown announced that “today we will urge Europe – and Europe will agree – to take further sanctions against Iran.” Britain is pressuring the European Union to freeze the overseas assets of Iran’s Bank Melli, which the United States accuses of supporting Iran’s missile programs. European Union spokesperson Cristina Gallach says that Europe is prepared to take action.

Iran denies its enrichment program is aimed at the creation of nuclear weapons, insisting that they will use the technology to generate electricity. In response, Brown announced that during weekend negotiations, “we put our enhanced offer on the table – including political and economic partnership and help with nuclear technology for civilian use. We await the Iranian response and will do everything possible to maintain the dialogue.”

In response to the announcement, Iran has withdrawn approximately $75 billion of its European foreign assets. “Part of Iran’s assets in European banks have been converted to gold and shares” said Iranian deputy foreign minister Mohsen Talaie, “and another part has been transferred to Asian banks.” The Iranian government gauges its foreign exchange reserves at $80 billion.

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India signs on to chemical patents to comply with WTO order

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

A bill passed by India’s Parliament put an end to the manufacture of many cheap generic drugs copied from products protected by foreign company patents. A Patents Amendment Bill (2005) has been condemned by foreign aid groups who expect a significant rise in drug costs as a result of the bill.

Drug compounds in India were previously not protected by patents, meaning that research and developement costs borne by the originating manufacturers were avoided by generic drug producers. The new bill “will move India toward the patent mainstream and support and encourage innovation and investment in research and development in India,” said Ranjit Sahani, managing director of Novartis India.

As the world’s fourth-largest manufacturer of drugs by volume, the pharmaceutical industry in India is valued at US$5 billion – but ranks as only 13th by value, reflecting the low costs to consumers of the products. “Because India is one of the world’s biggest producers of generic drugs, this law will have a severe knock-on effect on many developing countries which depend on imported generic drugs from India,” said Samar Verma, regional policy adviser at Oxfam International.

Around half of African, Asian and Latin American HIV patients needing anti-retroviral drugs rely on low-cost drugs from India, which are sold at one twentieth the price of similar drugs produced in the West.

More than 90 per cent of drugs listed as essentials in India are either unpatented or expired. Drugs patented before 1995 — when the World Trade Organization [WTO] set a 10 year deadline to enact protection — will not be eligible under the bill.

Some degree of protection was mandated by WTO in order for India to have greater access to international markets. Opposers of the bill say it goes too far.

The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights [TRIPS], under WTO, allows developing countries to not provide patent protection for uses of known drugs, new dosages and formulations, or combinations of known drugs.

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UK clarifies foreign, domestic response to cost of living crisis

Monday, March 14, 2022

Wikinews received clarification earlier this month from the United Kingdom Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) regarding the government’s response to the cost of living crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The UK anticipated Russian action against Ukraine for several months, and has coordinated a response with NATO and the European Union. Many “swift retributive responses including an unprecedented package of sanctions” promised in January were imposed after the Russian invasion began in February.

They now include “financial, trade, aircraft, shipping and immigration sanctions” to urge Russia “to cease actions which destabilise Ukraine, or undermine or threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine.” Most recently, it includes a commitment made by Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng Tuesday to phase out Russian oil and natural gas in the UK by the end of the year.

The announcement came the same day United States President Joe Biden announced a ban on imports of Russian oil, coal and gas.

However, a UK government spokesperson told Wikinews: “We cannot have a cliff-edge where oil and gas are abandoned overnight. Turning off the taps would put energy security, British jobs and industries at risk and we would be even more dependent on foreign imports.”

The European Commission was more cautious, planning to cut Union dependence on Russian imports by two-thirds this year, before ceasing altogether “well before 2030”. But whereas Russia supplies 40% of the EU’s natural gas, much of the UK’s energy is produced domestically.

The spokesperson contrasted the British situation with that of the EU: “Our single largest source of gas is from the UK Continental Shelf and the vast majority of imports come from reliable suppliers such as Norway.

“There are no gas pipelines directly linking the UK with Russia. Imports from Russia made up less than 4% of total UK gas supply in 2021.

“Ministers and officials continue to engage constructively and regularly with energy intensive industries and our priority is to ensure costs are managed and supplies of energy are maintained.”

A government FAQ published February 25 adds the UK has three liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals, while Germany has none. The fact sheet urged “European countries on the continent reduce their reliance on Russian gas both through alternative supplies, including the global [LNG] market”.

A press release from Tuesday specifically named Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, and called the invasion “illegal”. The spokesperson said: “We continue to monitor the impacts that Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is having on the cost of living in the UK, so we keep our approach under review.”

The release asserted Russian oil “is already being ostracised by the market”. And in any case: “In a competitive global market for oil and petroleum products, demand can be met by alternative suppliers. We will work closely with international partners to ensure alternative supplies of fuel products.”

But high inflation, already associated with the rising cost of petrol, has seen prices rise in all key areas. Before the Russian invasion, the Bank of England forecast inflation to rise to about 7% in spring, from 5.4% last year. And economists cited by The Guardian reportedly project inflation to rise to almost 8% next month.

Consultancy firm The Centre for Economics and Business Research more than halved its growth expectations for 2022 from 4.2% to 1.9% Tuesday. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said the £9 billion package by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak “would now offset only about one fifth of the rise in household energy bills.”

The government spokesperson said: “We recognise the concerns people have about the cost of living, which is why we have set out a generous package of support worth around £21bn including a £150 council tax rebate from April and a further £200 energy bill discount in October – cutting energy bills quickly for the majority of households.”

They added: “We are already providing support to families worth around £20 [billion] this financial year and next, including cutting the Universal Credit taper to make sure work pays, freezing alcohol and fuel duties to keep costs down, and providing £9.1bn to support 27 million households with their energy bills.”

As hinted, all measures were introduced prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24.

On February 3, it was announced those in England in Council Tax bands A-D would get £150 off their council tax payments. It was also announced there would be a £200 discount on all Britons’ energy bills in autumn. The £200 would be repaid automatically over the next five years, which Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer likened to a loan.

During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) Wednesday, he derided Sunak for proposing “a forced £200 loan for every household paid back in mandatory instalments”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the government for their £20 billion support package, calling the measures “unprecedented”. He added he plans to set “out an energy independence plan for this country in the course of the next few days to ensure that we undo some of the damage of previous decisions taken”.

Sunak announced changes to Universal Credit and the continued freeze of fuel levies during his autumn budget statement on October 27. The amount withheld workers making above the worker allowance threshold per pound was reduced from 63 pence to 55 pence. It follows the UK government’s cancellation of a Covid-19 uplift of £20 per week to Universal Credit in early October, which cut the income of six million claimants by £1040 per annum.

The fuel duty was frozen twelve years ago and has not been lifted since. It is estimated to save motorists £1900.

The statement also included a “radical simplification” of alcohol duties, reducing the taxable bands from fifteen to six and suspending a planned hike at a £3 billion loss to HM Treasury. This was encouraged by many organisations, including the British Beer and Pub Association.

Even so, the measures have been criticised as too meagre to address the reality of the situation. Ahead of Sunak’s spring statement slated for March 23, Conservative MPs have pressured the Chancellor to consider new measures. A source reportedly told The Guardian officials in HM Treasury are weighing options; publicly, they state “There’s only so much that can be done, and we’ve never seen oil prices where they are now.”

Analysts warned Britons from February 24 household gas and electricity bills could reach £3000 per year. The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets announced it would lift a cap on default energy tariffs by 54% to £1971 from April.

Though oil prices stabilised to below USD120 per barrel Wednesday, Brent Crude briefly reached a 2008 high of $147.50 per barrel and remain substantially higher from before the Russian invasion. To minimise the effect this will have on British consumers, Sir Keir pushed for nuclear power, renewable energy and home insulation at PMQs.

Johnson defended his record on renewables, calling the UK “the Saudi Arabia of wind power”. The UK spokesperson told Wikinews “It’s the right thing to do to move away from dependence on Russian oil and gas across Europe and this means looking at more nuclear and much more use of renewable energy.”

However: “Companies and skilled employees right across the UK’s gas sector are working to maximise production through this winter, helped by several small new wells and fields that have come online in recent months and edged production up.” The example Wikinews raised over the Abigail oil field in the North Sea, which was greenlit for development by an Israeli firm on February 2, was not addressed. At the time, the director of the Oil and Gas Authority told Sky News oil and gas will remain a source of British energy for decades.

The government spokesperson continued: “The issues we are facing are a result of high international gas prices rather than supply, and further UK oil and gas licensing is unlikely to have a major impact in the short term.”

The Labour Party has urged a windfall profits tax to be imposed on excess profits made by major fossil fuel companies, including BP and Shell plc. Both companies reported historic profits for 2021 in February. BP saw profits of $12.8 billion from -$5.7 billion in 2020, and Shell $19.3 billion from $4.85 billion in 2020.

After BP’s announcement, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves tweeted “The chancellor’s energy plans last week left families more worried than ever. It’s time for Labour’s plan for a one-off windfall tax on oil and gas producers to cut bills.” However, when pressed at PMQs, Johnson urged a “a sober, responsible approach.”. He said: “The net result of [a windfall tax] would be to see the oil companies put their prices up yet higher, and make it more difficult for them to [divest] from dependence on Russian oil and gas.”

The UK government spokesperson told Wikinews: “A windfall tax could deter £14 billion worth of opportunities awaiting investment, which would risk both security of our energy supply, as well as almost 200,000 jobs that rely on the industry.

“Oil and gas companies in the North Sea are already subject to a tax rate on their profits that is more than double those paid by other businesses. To date, the sector has contributed more than £375 billion in production taxes.

“We keep all taxes under review but we do not comment on speculation about tax changes.

“The UK Government places additional taxes on the extraction of oil and gas, with companies engaged in the production of oil and gas on the UK Continental Shelf subject to headline tax rates on their profits that are currently more than double those paid by other businesses. To date, the sector has paid more than £375 billion in production taxes.”

The government is also criticised for its plan to retrofit homes with poor insulation. In March last year, the government’s flagship green homes grant was scrapped, having only installed 5800 energy efficiency measures.

The government spokesperson responded: “We are investing almost £6.6 billion to support the installation of energy efficiency measures in low energy performance homes including older properties with low income home owners and tenants.

“The Heat and Buildings Strategy set out a comprehensive package of measures we are taking to kickstart the transition to low-carbon heat and build the market for heat pumps. This includes investment in a new £450 [million] Boiler Upgrade Scheme, the £950 [million] Home Upgrade Grant and the £60 [million] Heat Pump Ready research programme.”

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Telecom New Zealand to sell Yellow Page Group

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Telecom New Zealand has announced that it is going to sell its Yellow Page Group business and is expecting at least NZ$2 billion. The Yellow Page Group includes the Yellow Pages, White Pages (which includes both offline and online services), New Zealand Retirement Guide and New Zealand Tourism Online.

However Chief Financial Officer, Mark Bogoievski, will not comment on how much the reserve price is.

The company says that the money they get from selling the directories will be used to repay almost $3.5 billion worth of debt.

Theresa Gattung, Chief Executive of Telecom, said: “There has already been considerable interest shown in the future of Yellow Pages Group based on recent media speculation. We expect that the sale should be completed by the end of this financial year.”

The Yellow Page Group generates $250 million worth of revenue per annum and employs 600 people.

Ms Gattung said: “In the long term the business will be dominated by the global players. It’s really prudent off us to take this opportunity to see what value we can get looking at the sale of this business at this stage.”

Analysts are warning Telecom that it would miss out on the digital media possibilities. “It looks to me that it is a bit of a panic reaction in order to generate some quick cash,” said, telecommunications expert, Paul Budde, “I think it’s a short-term sort of strategy to generate some cash, but it will undermine its long term strategy to move from the old Telecom’s world into the new digital media world.”

Ms Gattung said that the privacy of the individuals will be kept, “obviously we’re only going to sell to a very reputable party.”

Telecom is also hinting at cutting hundreds of jobs to invest in new technology to beat off competition.

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Iran moves finances out of Europe’s banks

Friday, January 20, 2006

Iran, has decided to pull its finances out of European banks and into different foreign banks. A senior Iranian official stated that this is an attempt to pre-empt possible U.N. sanctions over its resumption of nuclear fuel enrichment activities.

Comments by Iran’s central bank governor Ebrahim Sheibani, carried on air by the ISNA student news agency, confirmed that Iran had started transferring funds.

“We transfer foreign reserves to wherever we see as expedient. On this issue, we have started transferring. We are doing that,” Sheibani told the ISNA agency.

Ebrahim Sheibani also told the agency that the assets were being moved to an “undisclosed” location.

It is unknown exactly how much money is involved or whether or not Iran’s investments in Europe would be affected by the move. Traders have said that they had already factored such a possibility into the market.

Gary Samore, an expert on Iran and vice president for international programs at the McArthur Foundation in Chicago, said “the move reflected concern by Tehran that the Europeans might take unilateral measures amid the crisis over its nuclear program.” He also added that its decision to pull its assets from Europe “makes sense in terms of preparing for the possibility that Europe might take some measure to impose some financial sanctions. I don’t know that it changes the diplomatic formula. The key issue is still the question of whether or not the Western group can engineer a formal referral to the Security Council.”

It is unclear if an asset freeze or other punishment is imminent in Iran, but it has happened before. The country’s assets in the United States have been frozen since Iranians seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held its staff hostage after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

An Italian court last year had ordered an Iranian bank account to be frozen at the request of U.S. plaintiffs who were seeking compensation for terrorist acts they believe were supported by the country (Iran).

Earlier the EU drafted a resolution that calls for referring Iran to the 15-nation council. But it is said to stop short of asking for punitive measures against Iran. The IAEA is expected to meet on February 2, 2006 to discuss Europe’s draft.

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