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"Some" senior leaders of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization died in the latest US airstrikes in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said. But there is "no evidence that it was bin Laden," a spokeswoman added. Meanwhile, reports said detailed plans for nuclear explosive devices were found in a compound used by Al Qaeda in Kabul, the capital, along with signs of a chemical-weapons laboratory. (Stories, pages 1, 6.)

With his regime appearing to crumble around him, Taliban leader Muhamad Omar and bin Laden both reportedly said they preferred death to surrender or capture by US or Northern Alliance forces. Omar also rejected Taliban participation in a new coalition government.

Saying "It's like a miracle," eight Christian aid workers arrived safely in Pakistan, where they were to be debriefed after their four-month ordeal at the hands of the Taliban. (Story, page 8.)

In related developments:

• Amid reports that it may be next on the US target list, Somalia asked for an "international investigation" into accusations that it harbors terrorists.

• Canada, France, and Jordan became the latest governments to announce that they're prepared to send troops to Afghan-istan for humanitarian aid and reconstruction missions.

• Although their party opposes sending German troops to Afghanistan, members of the Green Party were seeking ways to ensure victory for Chancelor Gerhard Schröder in today's no-confidence vote in parliament.

• Seven hostages held by the Muslim Abu Sayyaf rebels in the southern Philippines walked to freedom, although a US couple remained captive. Abu Sayyaf has been linked to bin Laden's Al Qaeda movement.

In a last-ditch effort to avoid a boycott of tomorrow's general election in Kosovo, the president of Yugoslavia appealed to the province's Serbs to vote. The election is designed to choose legislators who will govern alongside UN administrators and NATO-led peacekeepers. Many Serbs, however, argue that it will only legitimize the demands for independence by the province's ethnic-Albanian majority. (Story, page 7.)

A new cut in crude oil production by OPEC appeared unlikely after senior Russian officials rejected the cartel's demand for a more severe matching reduction. OPEC sources said a delay until at least Jan. 1 was all but certain so the cartel could negotiate with nonmember exporters on a cut that would stabilize futures prices. OPEC has been seeking a combined 500,000-barrel-a-day reduction from Russia, Mexico, and Norway to match its own anticipated 1 million-barrel cut.

Provided a UN representative is present, the leader of Cyprus's Greek community said he'd accept an invitation for face-to-face peace talks with his Turkish counterpart. UN-sponsored negotiations on the deeply divided island stalled last year but have taken on new urgency as the European Union considers membership for Cyprus. Turkey, also a candidate for EU membership, has warned that admitting Cyprus risks a return of fighting between the two communities.

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