World

Osama bin Laden has free rein to mount future attacks against the US and its interests, Afghanistan's Taliban regime announced. A spokesman said all previously imposed restrictions on the Saudi dissident "are no longer in place" because of the US-led raids on the country, adding: "We want this [and] bin Laden wants this." (Stories, pages 2, 6. 7.)

In related developments:

• Two groups of Taliban fighters crossed into neighboring Pakistan and exchanged fire with government troops, defense sources said. It was not immediately clear whether casualties resulted. Five Taliban pilots who flew helicopters into Pakistan have been detained, the sources said.

• In an emergency meeting in Qatar, the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference opposed a spread of US retaliation outside Afghanistan. (Story, page 1.)

• Police in Jakarta, Indonesia, again fired tear gas as hundreds of students tried to storm parliament to protest the US attack on Afghanistan. Not far away, police found and safely detonated a bomb within a block of Britain's embassy.

A formal investigation was begun into a radical Muslim group in London that declared British Prime Minister Tony Blair "a legitimate target" for Islamic militants. A leader of the British branch of al-Muhajiroun said "we must support our brothers physically [although] we are not armed." Blair, the most outspoken overseas supporter of the US antiterrorism campaign, was on a diplomatic tour of the Middle East to shore up Arab backing against bin Laden. Above, he speaks to British troops currently in Oman for a training exercise.

Eight members of the ruling coalition defected to the opposition, and a key cabinet minister resigned, plunging Sri Lanka's government into crisis just one day before it is to face a no-confidence motion in Parliament. The moves leave President Chandrika Kumaratunga's People's Alliance as a minority, with 111 of the legislature's 225 seats. She has two options: seeking an alliance with another party that would restore her majority or disbanding Parliament and calling a new national election. Confronting a similar situation in June, she suspended Parliament for two months.

With unemployment at 60 percent, the inflation rate soaring, and a presidential election looming next year, Zimbabwe's government ordered price controls on bread, meat, and other basic foods. Bread, for example, now will drop in price to less than half its current $1.27 a loaf. Controls were abolished in 1991 under a program of economic reforms pushed by donor nations. Economists, however, warned that the government's move would backfire without heavy new subsidies to producers because it would lead to overconsumption and, ultimately, shortages.

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