World

Arab League leaders were arriving in Lebanon for today's start of perhaps their most widely watched meeting in years. But it still was not clear, as the Monitor went to press, whether Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat would attend. He was expected to address the delegates via a TV feed from Ramallah in the West Bank if barred from going to Beirut by Israel or if he thought he might not be allowed to return. (Above, Palestinians demonstrate in Gaza City for Arafat's trip.) The summit, however, is expected to consider matters other than a Saudi proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Iraq is seeking a declaration of opposition to US efforts to topple its leadership. (Story, page 7.)

Senior Israeli officials were maintaining that Arafat could attend the Arab summit only if a truce with the Palestinians was reached first. Toward that end, US envoy Anthony Zinni was racing the clock to win the OK of both sides to his latest proposals on an Israeli pullback from Palestinian areas and the arrest of suspected terrorists. But as he worked, two would-be Palestinian suicide bombers died in a premature explosion in the van they apparently were driving to a Jerusa-lem shopping mall.

A delegation of visiting US senators was lectured by Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji on his government's displeasure at the course of American-Taiwan-ese relations. Zhu said the Bush administration had violated three understandings with his government by allowing Taiwan's defense minister to attend a private conference earlier this month in Florida. China also denied permission for a US warship to make a routine port call in Hong Kong April 5-9. It was not clear whether the developments would affect the planned visit to the US later this year of presumed new Chinese president Hu Jintao.

Estimates of the casualties from a powerful earthquake in northern Afghanistan ranged from 1,800 to as many as 4,800 deaths, up to 2,000 injuries, and 10,000 destroyed homes. The quake, which measured 5.9 in intensity, was shallow, increasing its potential for damage, seismologists said.

Long lines of people formed outside currency exchanges in Argentina's capital to buy US dollars at "any price" as the peso slid another 20 percent in value. It closed at a record-low 3.9 to the dollar in Monday's trading, its sixth straight day of decline, despite a new agreement between the largest banks and the government to keep the ratio at 2.9 to 1. A senior aide to President Eduardo Duhalde said the government was not considering junking the peso and adopting the dollar as Argentina's currency. He also denied that price controls might be imposed on consumer goods, although retail prices have risen almost 6 percent since early January.

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