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Speculation centered on the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya or Yemen as the places where Osama bin Laden might seek refuge if - as urged by Afghanistan's Islamic clerics - he leaves their country voluntarily. That recommendation to senior Taliban leader Mullah Muhamad Omar was likely to be accepted, his education minister said. But the opposition Northern Alliance doubted that bin Laden would be forced to leave, even at the risk of attack by the US. (Story, page 1.)

In related developments:

• In neighboring Pakistan, a new wave of protests at the government's decision to side with the US preceded an expected nationwide strike today.

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• Iraqi officials dismissed intelligence reports that their government was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks against the US, calling them "lies and slanders."

• Iran, which earlier signaled that it would not oppose US retaliation against those responsible for the terrorism, said its air space could not be used for an assault on Afghanistan.

• Leaders of Tajikistan said they expected tens of thousands of Afghans to rush the border (which guards kept in their gunsights, above), but vowed that "not a single refugee" would be allowed to cross

• European Union justice ministers agreed on a common definition of terrorism that will allow for future prosecutions. Only six of the EU's 15 member countries currently regard terrorism as a crime.

A response to the drive-by shooting of two Jewish settlers in the West Bank was being considered by Israel's leaders, who already had argued that the Palestinian cease-fire called earlier this week by Yasser Arafat "is not holding." The attack, near Bethlehem, killed a woman and seriously wounded her husband. Five Israeli soldiers also were wounded in a Gaza Strip grenade attack. A Palestinian died in return fire. Arafat also was meeting with his advisers. (Opinion, page 11.)

"Intensified" negotiations on surrendering weapons were offered by the Irish Republican Army as Northern Ireland teetered on the brink of a new suspension of its Protestant/ Catholic power-sharing administration tomorrow. The IRA said the offer was an attempt at achieving a "comprehensive resolution" of the thorniest issue blocking lasting peace in the province. But it also said the onus was on Protestants and the British government for further progress. Suspension, a technical maneuver that opens a six-week cooling-off period for new disarmament talks, was tried in early August, but without success. (Story, page 7.)

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