TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranian authorities have prevented attempted sabotage at the country's heavy water nuclear reactor, a senior official said Saturday without giving specifics as to the nature of the attempted disruption or its suspected initiator.
Asghar Zarean, who heads security at the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said domestic intelligence agencies were instrumental in uncovering the plot, which has not been the first attempt to disrupt the contentious nuclear program.
"Several cases of industrial sabotage have been neutralized in the past few months before achieving the intended damage, including sabotage at a part of the IR-40 facility at Arak," he said in a statement issued by his organization Saturday.
In the past, computer viruses have attacked Iranian nuclear facilities. While Zarean did not say whether that was the case this time, his comments coincided with the opening of a specialized lab Tehran says will fight industrial sabotage and neutralize cyberattacks.
"This specialized lab has been launched to identify, prevent and fight threats including modern software viruses," Zarean said.
In 2010, the so-called Stuxnet virus temporarily disrupted operation of thousands of centrifuges, key components in nuclear fuel production, at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Iran says it and other computer virus attacks are part of a concerted effort by Israel, the U.S. and their allies to undermine its nuclear program through covert operations.
Some Iranian officials have also suggested in the past that specific European companies may have sold faulty equipment to Iran with the knowledge of American intelligence agencies and their own governments, since the sales would have harmed, rather than helped, the country's nuclear program.
Since then, Iran has also said that it discovered tiny timed explosives planted on centrifuges but disabled them before they could go off. Authorities now claim the Islamic Republic is immune to cyberattacks.
The country has also reported computer virus attacks on its oil facilities, including one in 2012 that disabled Internet connections between the Oil Ministry, oil rigs and a major export facility.
The U.S. and its allies fear Iran may be able to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran denies the charges, saying its nuclear program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity and producing medical radio isotopes to treat cancer patients.
BAGHDAD (AP) -- No one is claiming responsibility for a series of deadly car bomb attacks in Iraq's capital city.
Police say five blasts targeting commercial areas and a restaurant killed at least 19 people and wounded dozens more.
Saturday's attacks in Baghdad bore the hallmarks of an al-Qaida breakaway group that frequently uses car bombs and suicide attacks to target public areas in their bid to undermine confidence in the government.
Iraq has seen a spike in violence since last April, with the death toll climbing to its highest levels since the worst of the country's sectarian bloodletting in 2006-2008.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai (pictured above) says the last 12 years of war were "imposed" on Afghans, a reference to the U.S.-led invasion that ousted the Taliban.
In a last address to Parliament on Saturday, Karzai also said his armed forces, now responsible for 93 percent of the country, were ready to take over entirely after the final withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops later this year.
Karzai was named as head of state by an international agreement, and subsequently by a council of Afghan notables, in the aftermath of the invasion. His final term in office expires with presidential elections next month.
He reiterated his stance that he wouldn't sign a security pact with Washington to allow a residual force to remain behind in Afghanistan, unless the U.S first brings peace.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A defense lawyer says a Pakistani judicial official has reduced the 33-year jail sentence of a doctor accused of helping the U.S. track down Osama bin Laden to 23 years.
Shakil Afridi was convicted in May 2012 on a series of charges linked to allegations he ran a vaccination program to collect DNA and verify bin Laden's presence in the town of Abbottabad. U.S. commandos killed the al-Qaida chief in 2011.
Afridi through his lawyers has denied helping the CIA.
His lawyer, Qamar Nadeem, said judicial official Munir Azam dropped the charge of waging war against Pakistan.
Azam's ruling in the northwestern city of Peshawar Saturday came in response to an application by Afridi's lawyer for a new trial. Azam rejected the request.
Afridi may still appeal further.
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's defense minister says a peace agreement with the Palestinians is unreachable unless they recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland.
Moshe Yaalon, told channel 2 TV Saturday, "it is impossible to make an agreement without there being recognition on the other side of our right to exist as the national homeland of the Jewish people."
He said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is "not a partner" for ending the conflict. Peace won't happen in his generation, he said.
The recognition issue is a sticking point in U.S. mediated talks. The Palestinians have rejected it.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called recognition the "root of the conflict," as it predates settlements and other issues at the heart of the talks.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with U.S. President Barack Obama next week.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department is offering bounties of up to $3 million each for three members of a Somalia-based extremist group with ties to al-Qaida.
The group is al-Shabab, and it claims responsibility for last year's deadly attack on a Kenyan shopping mall.
The department says rewards are being offered for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, Yasin Kilwe and Jafar, who goes by one name.
The three men hold senior roles in al-Shabab, which has launched attacks in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. The bounties are part of the "Rewards for Justice" program that offers cash for information about terror suspects.
The department says Abdikadir coordinates al-Shabab's recruitment in Kenya, and Jafar is his deputy. Officials say Kilwe is al-Shabaab's emir for Somalia's Puntland region.
Libya ousted PM says his removal invalid
TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- Libya's ousted prime minister has given his first interview since he left the country, saying parliament's dismissal of him was invalid while accusing his Islamist rivals of working against him.
Ali Zidan told private television station Libya Ahrar in an interview aired Saturday that he was advised by allies in the parliament to leave the country after he was voted out of office over concerns about his safety and to avoid getting arrested.
Zidan also said Islamists miscounted the votes to oust him.
Parliament voted Zidan, a secularist, out of office Tuesday. He then left the country for Europe, though it's unclear where he is now. He says he'll only return to Libya when his safety is guaranteed.
His defense minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, was named interim prime minister.
BEIJING (AP) -- China's central bank says it will allow its tightly controlled currency to fluctuate more widely in value against the dollar as part of reforms aimed at making the country's economy more efficient.
The People's Bank of China said Saturday it will double the size of the band in which the yuan is allowed to fluctuate against the dollar daily. Still, it says the yuan will be allowed to gain or lose only 2 percent each day.
The widely expected move follows promises by the ruling Communist Party to give market forces a bigger role in the state-dominated economy in hopes of making it more efficient and productive.
Salvadoran sea survivor meets companion's mother
EL FORTIN, Mexico (AP) -- A Salvadoran fisherman who says he drifted at sea for more than a year has met the mother of his companion who died during the ordeal.
Jose Salvador Alvarenga embraced his friend Ezequiel Cordoba's mother Saturday, and both cried as a horde of journalists recorded the moment at a fishing village in southern Mexico.
Cordoba died about a month into the ordeal. Alvarenga says they promised each other that whoever survived would visit the other's family and tell them what happened.
Cordoba's mother, Roselia Diaz Cueto, said it gave her tranquility to meet Alvarenga. He said meeting her filled him with happiness.
The fisherman's boat washed up in the Marshall Islands in February.