World

Two new bomb explosions and a drive-by shooting - and quick retaliation by Israel - cast doubt on hopes for an early meeting between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Israeli officials again blamed Arafat for "doing nothing" to halt attacks such as the suicide bombing by a Palestinian at a railroad station in the town of Nahariya, which killed four people and hurt 36 others. Peres said a meeting with Arafat must be held "without preconditions," but Arafat aides said it would not take place "for the mere sake of holding it." (Story, page 1.)

NATO troops collecting weapons in Macedonia from ethnic-Albanian insurgents "should leave" once their mission is complete, President Boris Trajkovski said. Only civilian observers were acceptable to monitor relations between the Slav majority and the Albanian minority, Trajkovski said. Otherwise, Macedonia would have what he called "a false peace." He spoke amid calls for an international force to remain in the troubled republic once the NATO mission ends Sept. 27. The alliance has not released an updated weapons count since collection efforts resumed Friday.

A trade of eight foreign aid workers on trial in Afghanistan for an Islamic militant jailed in the US was suggested as a way out of the legal imbroglio over their alleged preaching of Christianity. But the Foreign Ministry of the ruling Taliban said such a solution would have to await the outcome of their trial, which resumed Sunday. There was no immediate comment by the Bush administration on whether militant Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted for plotting the 1995 World Trade Center bombing, would be freed. (Related story, page 6.)

The first fence-mending visit to troubled Aceh province by new Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri was widely seen as a failure despite her emotional apology for the "shortcomings" and "mistakes" in previous government policy and her appeal for forgiveness. Relatively few Acehnese turned out for her highly publicized visit (above), and many of those who did jeered her pledge to "study" what she'd learned during the six-hour stay. She did not meet with representatives of the province's independence movement, whose demands she has refused to consider.

Early turnout was heavy for the national election in formerly Soviet Belarus, where hard-line incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko hoped for a first-round victory despite a strong challenge by trade union leader Vladimir Goncharik. Goncharik vowed not to accept the outcome if there was evidence of widespread vote-rigging, a possibility that international monitors said they also were concerned about. If necessary, a runoff would be held Sept. 23. (Story, page 7.)

Casualty estimates ranged from 70 to at least 100 deaths from the latest violence in northern Nigeria. A dusk-to-dawn curfew was in effect and Army troops were patrolling the city of Jos, after fighting erupted Friday, allegedly after a Christian woman angered Muslim men by crossing a street where they were gathered to pray. Muslim-Christian clashes have killed hundreds of Nigerians since 15 years of military rule ended in 1999 and demands for the imposition of sharia, or strict Islamic law, grew more forceful.

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