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By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn and Kristen Broman-Worthington / March 25, 2002



Whether Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat attends this week's Arab summit in Lebanon remained uncertain, with aides saying he'd rather skip the meeting than bow to "unfair" conditions for a truce with Israel. For their part, senior Israelis said Arafat would be allowed to attend only if he refrained from "incitement" at the Beirut session, which is expected to take up a controversial Saudi proposal for regional peace. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he'd like to attend the conference, but that idea drew sharp ridicule from Arab leaders. Amid that backdrop, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were to meet with US envoy Anthony Zinni in another attempt to forge a cease-fire.

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Because of concerns about his safety, the long-awaited return home of exiled Afghan King Mohamad King Zahir Shah was delayed yet again, although he told journalists in Rome that his departure would take place "in the first half" of next month. Monitor correspondent Ilene Prusher reported that the delay – the king (below) was to have arrived today – was dismaying those close to him, who worry that the new postponement would increase doubts that the interim Afghan government really is in control of the shattered country.

Hundreds of opposition supporters have been driven from their homes, and another 1,250 are being "actively hunted" by militants loyal to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe since the nation's disputed election earlier this month, human rights activists and the Movement for Democratic Change claimed. Neither the government nor police were available to comment.

Unseasonably cold weather and a willingness to wait for police to release their leaders was keeping laid-off workers in China quiet for the time being. But the unemployed in at least one city, Liaoyang, threatened to resume their demonstrations if the leaders are not freed by tomorrow. City officials in Liaoyang eased tensions somewhat over the weekend by paying the protesters roughly half of the severance pay they were promised when their factories closed. (Story, page 6.)

As many as 2 million people jammed Rome Saturday in a massive show of force against plans by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to rewrite Italy's labor laws. The rally, perhaps the largest in Italian history, originally was to have included entertainment, but that was canceled out of respect for murdered government consultant Marco Biagi, who was helping to advise on the reform plan.

Across the sectarian spectrum, Nigerians today are awaiting the verdict of an Islamic appeals court in the case of a woman sentenced to die by stoning. Reports said Safiya Husaini, who's accused of adultery, is likely to be acquitted. Her case, which has aroused international attention, took on a new focus last week when the government ruled that the application of harsh Muslim law, or sharia, is unconstitutional.

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