World

The US assault on Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in Afghanistan is on course and will proceed "on the timeline which is satisfying to us," its commander insisted. In a visit to the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov (above, r.), Gen. Tommy Franks responded to reports of official frustration with the war's progress and to opposition Northern Alliance complaints of too little US help, saying "Our purpose is to satisfy ourselves that each group we cooperate with has shared interests with us." (Story, page 6.)

Amid negative press coverage of the counterterrorism war and release of a new opinion poll showing a sharp drop in British support for it, Prime Minister Tony Blair made an emotional appeal "never [to] forget why we are doing this." He told the Welsh Parliament that evidence linking Osama bin Laden to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the US has become "a flood." Blair has been the US's staunchest ally in the campaign. But the main headline in Sunday's London Mirror called the war "a fraud," and the poll found backing among Britons has slid from 74 percent to 62 percent.

With Israel rejecting new US pressure to pull its troops out of positions around Palestinian towns in the West Bank, published reports said Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was preparing an "independent" initiative to try to break the deadlock between the two sides. Analysts suggested the move was a new sign of possible division in the Israeli government. Peres's plan, to be offered at a weekend meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, reportedly calls for a military withdrawal from - and dismantling of Jewish settlements in - the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is on record as opposing both ideas. (Story, page 1.)

The trial of former hard-line Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was scheduled for next Feb. 12 by the UN war-crimes tribunal in The Hague. But for the second day in a row at a preparatory hearing, Milosevic showcased his defiance, ridiculing the charges against him as being "at the intellectual level of a retarded 7-year-old." He also warned that his trial for alleged offenses in the Kosovo, Croatia, and Bosnian conflicts of the 1990s could "incite terrorism" in the Balkans.

In the second suicide-bomb attack in two days, Tamil rebels rammed a small boat loaded with explosives into an oil tanker off Sri Lanka's northern coast. The latter was heavily damaged, and three members of an onboard security detail were missing. Meanwhile, reports said the number of deaths from Monday's apparent attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake rose to five, and police warned of more such efforts as the Dec. 5 national election approaches.

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