World

A demand that Afghanistan deliver Osama bin Laden to the US is expected to be issued today by a delegation of visiting senior Pakistani officials. Otherwise, they planned to warn the ruling Taliban of a massive American assault. No deadline for a hand-over was indicated, although CNN reported Sunday that the Taliban would be given three days. Pakistan pledged its full cooperation with the US Saturday, over angry protests by fundamentalist Muslim groups.

For their part, Taliban elders were discussing Afghanistan's defense should the US attack. But they repeated assertions that bin Laden enjoys their full protection, warned of retaliation against neighboring states that assist the US, and called on Muslims worldwide to wage holy war against American aggression. Against that backdrop, UN refugee officials reported "three times larger than normal" movements of ordinary Afghans apparently desperate to escape possible US attack.

The only internal opposition to the Taliban, the Afghan Northern Alliance, buried its charismatic chief, Ahmad Shah Masood, one day after confirming that he had died of his wounds. Masood was hurt last week in a suicide-bomb attack by assailants posing as journalists. Analysts said the alliance, mostly ethnic-minority groups that control only 5 percent of the country, may be too weak to carry on without his leadership.

"If there are 48 hours of absolute calm" on the part of Palestinians, Israel will halt all military operations against them and reschedule a meeting with Yasser Arafat, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said. (Story, page 5.) But in response to a shooting attack late Saturday that killed one Israeli, Army tanks pounded a police checkpoint and other targets in the Palestinian city of Ramallah. One Palestinian died, and gunmen, firing on the Israelis as they attempted to make an arrest, killed one soldier.

Approval is expected to be only a formality today when negotiators from China and the World Trade Organization meet to finalize a deal that will admit the Asian giant to membership early next year. A compromise was reached early Saturday on the final obstacle: ownership of insurance companies doing business in China. The deal still must be OK'd by senior WTO ministers in November and be ratified by China's legislature. China has been seeking WTO membership since 1986.

Smiles and handshakes opened the first cabinet-level discussions between North and South Korea in six months, and the two sides appeared united in calling last week's terrorism attacks in the US "very regrettable." But prospects for other progress were dampened by the North's demand for electricity supplies from the South in return for implementing terms of the declaration signed by their respective presidents at last year's historic summit in the North's capital.

A "relatively small" NATO-led armed force may remain in Macedonia after the alliance's weapons-collecting mission ends next weekend, a senior government official announced. But the decision - a reversal of President Boris Trajkovski's earlier refusal to allow armed protection for civilian peace monitors - was undercut by a threat from a party in his ruling coalition. The Social Democratic Alliance vowed to pull out of the government if parliament OK's a proposed referendum on the peace deal with the republic's ethnic-Albanian minority.

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