World

With one deadline missed and a new one pending, Al Qaeda forces in eastern Afghanistan were being pounded by US airstrikes for their failure to accept surrender terms. On the ground, tribal leaders set noon today, local time, for the terrorist group to hand over Osama bin Laden and 20 senior aides in return for safe passage by its ordinary members. Al Qaeda members were demanding to surrender to the UN in the presence of diplomats from their own countries. Above, tribesmen fighting Al Qaeda take shelter from incoming gunfire. (Related stories, pages 1, 7; related editorial, page 20.)

More mass protests and a general strike are expected in Argentina today against President Fernando de la Rua's unpopular austerity plan even as his government scrapes together enough cash to avoid defaulting on $900 million in short-term bonds that mature tomorrow. Critics also were scornful of de la Rua's new budget, which was to be unveiled as the Monitor went to press, arguing that it's based on a growth forecast of 3 percent next year. At best, they say, the economy will continue to stagnate, adding pressure to devalue the peso.

A onetime Protestant militant was found shot to death in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in a case believed related to his role as a spy for police. Last month, prosecutors dropped charges against William Stobie, who was thought to have been involved in the 1989 murder of high-profile Catholic defense attorney Pat Finucane. Stobie admitted in court that he told police about impending attacks by the outlawed Ulster Defense Association, Northern Ireland's largest armed Protestant group. He'd been warned that he was targeted for payback.

The bitter rivalry between Sri Lanka's president and new Prime Minister Ranil Wickreme-singhe erupted again when the latter's choice to serve as a key cabinet aide was denied the oath of office. Chandrika Kuma-ratunga said she refused to swear in S. B. Dissanayake due to an investigation into his past, but analysts noted that he'd defected two months ago from her ruling People's Alliance. However, she agreed to give up her defense and finance ministry posts, opening the way for peace talks between the new government and Tamil rebels.

A presidential election likely to end the awkward power-sharing arrangement between French incumbent Jacques Chirac and Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was scheduled for April 21 and May 5. Follow-up voting for a new parliament was set for June 9 and 16. Chirac and Jospin have been deadlocked in public opinion polls for months, although neither has confirmed yet that he'll run.

Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn and Steven Savides

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