World

Despite strict orders not to fire into it, Israeli troops (above) were besieging one of Christendom's most sacred sites, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where armed Palestinians were among hundreds of people seeking refuge. Meanwhile, Israel released what it said was a document seized from Yasser Arafat's West Bank headquarters showing $8,260 in expenses for making bombs for Palestinian "martyrs." An Arafat aide dismissed it as "baseless."

(Stories, pages 1, 9.)

In related developments:

• Bilateral contacts with Israel were suspended by Egypt's government except for those "serving the Palestinian cause." President Hosni Mubarak also wrote to President Bush, urging "immediate action" to stop "the violent military campaign" by Israel.

• Hundreds of participants at a meeting sponsored by Bahrain's Rotary club refused a request by US Ambassador Ronald Neumann that they observe a moment of silence for Israeli casualties of the intifada following one for Palestinians.

• More anti-Semitic attacks were reported in France, despite a new police guard announced by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. A synagogue in Antwerp, Belgium, also was firebombed – the second such attack in that country this week.

An address to the nation was scheduled for tomorrow by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf after his cabinet and military chiefs OK'd a planned referendum that is expected to focus on whether he should remain in power for another five years. Musharraf, who seized control of the government in late 1999, is under a Supreme Court order to schedule a democratic election by October. All of Pakistan's major political parties oppose the referendum as unconstitutional.

A willingness to resume diplomatic dialogue with the US was announced by North Korea's Communist government, but only if the Bush administration does not engage in "slander" again. The announcement, in response to a US proposal, came as a South Korean envoy arrived in Pyongyang to explore "opening the channels of stalemated North-South relations."

Four people died and more than 50 others were hurt in the first major violation of the new truce in Indonesia's volatile Maluku province. Witnesses said "trained perpetrators" threw a "high-intensity bomb" from a passing car into a crowd outside a karaoke bar in the provincial capital, Ambon. Muslims and Christians signed a peace accord in February aimed at ending three years of sectarian violence. (Story, page 7.)

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