World

From three sides, Afghan tribesmen launched a fierce attack on a valley that leads to the Tora Bora area where Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization uses caves and tunnels for protection. They were met with stiff resistance, although a spokes-man for the US-led counterterrorism coalition said "the areas in which he and his fighters can conduct offensive actions are getting smaller every day." Meanwhile, in Kabul, the capital, US Marines and a State Department team were inspecting damage to the US Embassy, which has been closed for 12 years. (Story, page 1.)

Despite an amicable discussion, Secretary of State Powell ended his visit to Moscow having failed to persuade Russian leaders to drop objections to the US plan for a national missile defense. The Russians also withheld a firm commitment on reducing their arsenal of nuclear weapons. Powell's counterpart, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, however, told a joint news conference his government was close to a decision to match US cuts - leaving a stockpile estimated at 1,700 to 2,200 warheads.

Political fireworks stole the spotlight as the first multiethnic, power-sharing legislature in 13 years opened for business in Kosovo. The 120-seat assembly brings together representatives of the majority Albanian population with rival Serbs and other groups. But delegates from the Albanian Democratic Party of Kosovo walked out when their leader, former guerrilla chief Hashim Thaci, was denied speaking privileges.

Organizers were claiming "total success" for their nationwide, one-day general strike against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's controversial decrees on the economy. Chávez ordered Army troops to patrol the streets of Caracas, but business districts in the capital were all but deserted, with no reports of looting or violence as the Monitor went to press. The left-leaning president also repeated a vow not to amend any of the 49 heavily criticized decrees affecting many sectors of the flagging economy. Above, a Caracas resident walks past shuttered shops. (Editorial, page 8.)

Without saying why, the entire 36-member cabinet in Syria resigned and will be replaced by a new government commissioned by President Bashar Assad, the official SANA news agency said. For weeks, rumors have hinted that such a move would be forthcoming because of Assad's pledge to liberalize the state-controlled economy. Unofficial estimates put Syria's unemployment rate at 20 percent.

Voters trooped to the polls for an early election in Trinidad and Tobago that pitted the first prime minister of East Indian descent against a largely black opposition. But Basdeo Panday also was facing unhappiness in his own ranks over his perceived failure to end corruption.

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