World

The first high-level meeting in months between Israeli and Palestinian officials was expected in Jerusalem as the Monitor went to press. The talks, with the OK of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, were to focus on "government reforms" and economic issues, especially ways to help ease the strain on Palestinians living under tight Israeli military control in the West Bank. Against that backdrop, the Jerusalem newspaper Haaretz quoted a senior military source as estimating that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been so weakened as a result of the latest intifada that there no longer was a need to try to topple him.

An appeal for international help in investigating the murder of Afghan Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir was issued by the government. The Interior Ministry and police were ordered by new President Hamid Karzai to cooperate fully with the International Security Assistance Force in "bringing the criminals to justice as soon as possible." Analysts said the stakes couldn't be higher for Karzai, whose credibility and perhaps the stability of the war-shattered country depend on finding the unidentified killers.

All forms of demonstration were banned in Iran "to prevent abuse by wrong-doers" because of today's anniversary of the 1999 student unrest, the worst since the Islamic revolution 20 years before. But calls for opponents of the hard-line regime to express their dissatisfaction in the streets were continuing from antigovernment groups abroad via the Internet and short-wave radio. The online edition of National Review magazine said it had learned that public access to Tehran's airport was blocked and that planes were standing by to carry unpopular regime leaders to safety if demonstrations were held anyway and authorities were unable to contain them.

Smoke from 10 out-of-control forest fires blanketed Montreal, Canada's No. 2 city, triggering health alerts as well as predictions that only rains might put them out. In all, officials said 85 blazes were burning across northern Quebec and had destroyed more than 250,000 acres. They were blamed on dry conditions and lightning. No rain was forecast for the region until at least Thursday.

Two more men died in the year's worst coal-mine accident in Ukraine, bringing the casualty count to 35. Nine others remained hospitalized from a conveyor fire that broke out Sunday and filled the 1,800-foot-deep mine shaft with smoke. Ukraine's antiquated mining industry employs 450,000 people, and officials have no plans to close any of it because few other jobs are available in the coal regions.

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