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A meeting on security between Israeli and Palestinian officials appeared likely to go ahead as the Monitor went to press, despite another suicide bombing aboard a crowded commuter bus (above) in northern Israel. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed eight people – among them the assailant – and wounded 27 others, many of them seriously. In a statement, the Palestinian Authority condemned the attack, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said it "has not taken any steps [or] given any orders" to stop "a policy of terror." Still, Israel would not retaliate for the moment, aides to Sharon said.

Al Qaeda and Taliban remnants are trying again to regroup in eastern Afghanistan – and at great expense – despite their defeat in the just-concluded Operation Anaconda, a senior US commander said. Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck predicted an increase in "enemy activity" as spring brings improved weather to the area. As he spoke, an American soldier was wounded and three Afghan allies were killed in a raid on the airport near Khost, about 40 miles from where Operation Anaconda was conducted.

The one-year suspension of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth "means absolutely nothing," President Robert Mugabe's information minister said. He said the government would issue a "counter-report ... [because] it would be a tragedy" to let the Commonwealth's action go unchallenged. Meanwhile, the government formally charged opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai with treason, and a scheduled three-day nationwide strike in protest against Mugabe's reelection in internationally condemned voting appeared off to an ineffective start in the face of heavy police countermeasures. (Editorial, page 8.)

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A state funeral was ordered for a top adviser to Italian President Silvio Berlusconi after he was assassinated on his way home from work Tuesday. Marco Biagi, a university professor in Bologna, had angered leftists and labor unions by advocating reform of Italy's employment code in ways that would make it easier to fire unproductive workers. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but a symbol used by the Red Brigades terrorist group in the 1970s and '80s was found spray-painted on a wall outside Biagi's home.

Another day of protests by thousands of laid-off workers in northeastern China finally was met with force by police. Participants said they were beaten and their leaders were seized. Reports also said the protests in the industrial city of Liaoyang actually began March 11, rather than Monday as earlier believed. In Daqing, in China's largest oil-producing region, more laid-off workers also clashed with police and overturned a car. The demonstrators are demanding unemployment pay promised them when their state-owned companies folded. Analysts said the protests pose a challenge to the government because once-revered workers are suffering from the closure of old and inefficient industries.

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