World

The assault on a key Taliban-held city in northern Afghan-istan appeared to be stalling, and opposition leaders complained that the US was doing "too little" to bomb the front lines. Northern Alliance commanders admitted their efforts to take Mazar-e-Sharif had been repelled by Taliban forces. But the focus of US raids Tuesday was the capital, Kabul, and Kandahar, the Taliban base. Meanwhile, the US conceded its planes may have hit a home for the elderly, as claimed Monday by the Taliban, although UN sources said the building was a military hospital. (Stories, pages 1, 6; related opinion, page 11.)

Without indicating how it knew, the Bush administration said Iraq has been moving key components of its chemical- weapons industry to specially built underground bunkers. The aim: to make their detection and destruction by bombing difficult. The US has yet to designate Iraq as a target in its counterterrorism campaign. But a Pentagon report in January said the Baghdad government has rebuilt much of its chemical-weapons capacity since the 1991 Gulf war and has the expertise to produce such weapons on short notice.

A US demand that Israel "immediately" pull its forces from Palestinian-ruled areas in the West Bank - and not return - was rejected by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Analysts said that set the stage for a difficult showdown with the US, which sends Israel $3 billion a year in aid. The invasion was triggered by the murder last week of Sharon's tourism minister by Palestinian gunmen. Sharon said Israel had no plan to "take control" of the Palestinian areas, and the Defense Ministry indicated the troops would leave once they had credible assurances that the Palestinians would work to prevent future attacks against Israelis.

Expectations were growing for an announcement by the Irish Republican Army that it already has put some of its arsenal of weapons "beyond use" to try to salvage the peace process in Northern Ireland. The expectations were fueled by Monday's public call on the part of IRA ally Gerry Adams for at least a partial disarmament. Meanwhile, in London, aides said British Prime Minister Tony Blair would issue a statement on the situation.

Arrest warrants were issued for the chief of Colombia's largest leftist rebel movement and eight aides for last month's kidnaping and murder of a popular ex-minister of culture. The warrants came from the office of Attorney General Edgardo Maya, whose wife, Consuelo Araujonoguera, was the victim of the crime. It was not clear what effect the move would have on the faltering peace process between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

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