World

Israel's leaders were considering a request by President Bush that they permit Yasser Arafat to travel to Lebanon for this week's Arab League conference. But informed sources said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would not announce his decision until after conferring with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who was en route home from a trip to China. The conference is expected to focus primarily on the controversial Saudi proposal to trade Arab recognition of Israel for such concessions as an Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders and acceptance of a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (Story, page 1.)

In a surprise move, the two Koreas announced they will resume high-level discussions early next month on "the grave situation" facing their divided peninsula and "issues of mutual concern." Relations between them had been on a downward spiral since Bush included North Korea in what he called an "axis of evil." Earlier momentum toward possible unification ended last year when the North broke off contact, citing "hostile" US policy.

Despite heavy police presence, laid-off workers in two Chinese industrial cities resumed protests against their treatment by government officials. The protests subsided last weekend amid promises of back pay and offers to try to find work for some of the demonstrators. But skeptics called the pledges either vague or "not believable."

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A call for a cease-fire by Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines was rejected by President Gloria Arroyo's government, which said they had a choice: surrender or be killed. The Abu Sayyaf group offered to free one of three hostages it still holds if government troops allowed safe passage for one of its wounded leaders to seek medical treatment. An Abu Sayyaf camp was overrun Saturday by the Army, resulting in five deaths. The group, which has been linked to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda movement, also is holding an American missionary couple.

Adultery charges and a death sentence against a Nigerian woman were overturned by an Islamic appeals court because "all the procedures [of the trial court in the case] were wrong." In the glare of world attention – Amnesty International alone submitted a petition with more than 600,000 signatories opposed to the sentence – the outcome was expected. And Nigeria's government late last week declared the Muslim legal code, sharia, unconstitutional. But that decree appeared likely to be tested again as another woman was given 30 days to appeal a sentence of death by stoning for the same offense.

Whether Army units will try again today to keep Madagascar's parliament from reconvening was unclear after supporters of self-proclaimed president Marc Ravalomanana blocked an attempt to seize it before dawn Monday. Ravalomanana, who has been in a power struggle with incumbent Didier Ratsiraka since claiming he won last December's national election, hopes to reopen the legislature in Anatananrivo, the capital. Ratsiraka has declared parliament closed until next month.

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