Still more last-minute snags arose in the agreement between Israel and the Palestinians to end the armed standoff at the Church of the Nativity. Italy was complaining that it had not been consulted about accepting militants holed up in the church and could not accept any "unilateral initiatives" imposed on it. The holdup was preventing Israel from ending its five-week siege of the church as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was in the US to meet with President Bush. Left, Israeli soldiers man a metal detector outside the church, as priests and a Palestinian negotiator walk through. (Story, page 1.)
In related developments:
Radical Palestinian groups quickly rejected the deal, with Hamas in particular calling it "a major catastrophe."
An emergency session of the UN General Assembly convened in New York to consider a draft resolution offered by Arab and developing nations that would condemn Israel for "a massacre committed in the Jenin refugee camp and other Palestinian cities." The sponsors remain angry that a UN investigation into last month's fighting in Jenin was called off because of Israel's refusal to cooperate.
In a rare public statement, the Nobel Peace Prize committee said it never considered revoking Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres's 1994 award. Some committee members expressed that wish last week on grounds that Peres had violated "the intention and spirit" of the prize, which he shared with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
A left-wing activist was being interrogated by Dutch police for the assassination of maverick politician Pim Fortuyn, who appeared likely to lead his party to a strong showing in next week's national election. Campaigning was suspended, but the outgoing government decided against postponing the vote. Fortuyn also was considered an extremist, with outspoken views on immigration, especially by Muslims, who account for about 1 million of the 16 million Dutch population. (Story, page 7.)
The search for survivors was called off and an investigation began into one of the worst marine disasters in Bangladesh's history. A ferry, the Salahuddin-2, sank in a powerful storm Friday with as many as 400 people aboard. Fewer than 100 are believed to have survived. Thousands of ferries serve the riverine nation, but they don't issue tickets or maintain passenger lists, making exact accounting almost impossible.