World

The Taliban offered to surrender their northern stronghold city of Kunduz if the opposition alliance guarantees the safety of non-Afghans fighting with them - including loyalists to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network - and if the surrender were witnessed by UN representatives, an opposition commander said. There was no immediate word on whether the opposition had accepted the offer. US warplanes over the weekend had pounded Taliban positions outside Kunduz, the last city in the north held by the Islamic militia.

In related developments:

• Germany was to begin mobilizing up to 3,900 troops for the US-led campaign, Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said. Germany's lower house of parliament narrowly approved the move last week after Chancellor Gerhard Schröder called a confidence vote.

• A Spanish magistrate arrested and charged eight Islamic militants of playing a role in the Sept. 11 attacks. Among those jailed was Syrian Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, believed to be Al Qaeda's top representative in Spain.

• The Northern Alliance will participate in talks in Europe as early as this week on the shape of a future Afghan government, Alliance Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said. The U.N. envoy to Afghanistan was to meet with former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who returned to Kabul after five years in exile.

Voters chose a moderate leader in Kosovo's first general election since NATO and the UN pushed out Serbian forces, but also gave a boost to a party headed by a ex-ethnic Albanian rebel chief, exit polls showed. Ibrahim Rugova's Democratic League of Kosovo took 44.7 percent of the vote. The margin would give Rugova (above) the upper hand in forming a government, but isn't wide enough to let his party rule without a coalition. The 120-seat assembly will govern alongside UN officials and NATO-led peacekeepers. (Story, page 6.)

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejected a European Union call to set in motion an internationally backed truce-to-talks plan, saying Palestinians hadn't done enough to stop violence. Sharon said Israel stood firm in demanding a seven-day halt to what he called Palestinian terrorism. Meanwhile, Israeli forces withdrew from the Palestinian town of Tulkarm.

In the first face-to-face talks between Russia and Chechen separatist rebels in two years, President Vladimir Putin's envoy, Viktor Kazantsev, met behind closed doors with a representative of rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov. Putin, who has taken a tough stance on Chechnya, repeatedly rejected Western calls for a settlement of the war there. But in a Sept. 24 speech, he urged rebels to contact Russian officials to discuss ending their separatist fight.

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