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A leader of the military wing of Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization died in an Israeli missile attack as the Palestinian Authority chief was preparing to meet in Washington with President Clinton. Two women bystanders also were killed when the missile from a helicopter destroyed Hussein Abeyat's vehicle in the West Bank. An Israeli Army statement said the mission was part of a policy to attack "elements responsible for escalating violence" and that Abeyat had been involved in at least three fatal shootings of soldiers.

Ending two weeks of speculation, the government of Qatar announced it will close Israel's trade mission in Doha, the capital. The move was broached after a pan-Arab strategy meeting in Egypt Oct. 23. It was not immediately clear whether Qatar would sever all relations with Israel or whether its decision was taken to appease delegates to Sunday's Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting, for which it is the host. Although the trade office has been a low-level mission, prospective attendees led by Iran and Saudi Arabia had threatened to boycott the meeting unless Qatar acted.

Pulling back from her earlier hard-line stance on peace negotiations, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga said she is "ready to have discussions" with Tamil separatist leaders. But she told the opening session of Parliament such talks could come only after the Tamils had spelled out their demands and after "we give the most serious consideration to whether they are trying to fool us." Norwegian mediators are trying to bring the two sides together for the first time in five years. The rebels previously have broken off talks to resume fighting for a homeland - a campaign that has killed more than 60,000 people.

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"Why should I accept?" Philippines President Joseph Estrada asked in announcing he'd declined an offer of immunity from criminal prosecution from political opponents in exchange for his resignation. For the first time, Estrada admitted he had been offered millions of dollars in bribes by illegal gambling syndicates. But he said he rejected them and maintained that the cash is in a bank account controlled by his office and would be used as evidence of his innocence at his impeachment trial.

The first reported bomb explosion since July injured at least three people in Vientiane, Laos, as delegates arrived for today's conference of Asian foreign ministers. Unconfirmed reports said two of the wounded had died. The incident aroused concerns about security for the conference and for Saturday's arrival of Chinese President Jiang Zemin for a two-day official visit. A flurry of mysterious explosions in Vientiane over the summer hurt at least 40 people. The blasts generally have been seen as attempts to embarrass Laos's Communist Party government.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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