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"No decision has been taken yet" on whether to continue dialogue with Israeli officials on security and humanitarian concerns following the Monday night attack that killed a Hamas leader and 16 other people, senior Palestinians said. All but one of the other victims were noncombatants; more than 140 others were hurt. Both sides were assessing their next moves after the raid, which provoked a firestorm of international condemnation. Hamas warned that "every Israeli" now is a target for retaliation. But some Israelis noted that "there would still be the same threats" even if the attack had killed only Salah Shehadeh, chief of the Hamas military wing.

A stern warning to paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland was issued by the British government. Prime Minister Tony Blair and John Reed, his secretary for Northern Ireland, told Parliament that Britain will be "more rigorous" in monitoring the cease-fire in the province and spelled out guidelines for deciding who has breached it. The statements came in response to an ultimatum by David Trimble, the Protestant first minister of Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration, that he'd resign unless there was a clampdown on paramilitary violence. The Irish Republican Army, Trimble says, has been restocking its arsenal of weapons and is behind growing sectarian trouble. He also wants the IRA's political ally, Sinn Fein, expelled from the self-rule government.

Organizers were hoping for a heavy last-minute turnout to avoid losing money on the Roman Catholic Church's seventh World Youth Day activities in Toronto, Canada's largest city. Only about 200,000 people from around the world were registered for the $80 million event, almost four times fewer than were expected initially. The highlight of the six-day program is to be Friday's welcoming ceremony for Pope John Paul II. The pontiff won admiration for a labored but steady descent on foot from his plane on arrival Tuesday, despite physical problems that limit his mobility.

Only 82 of the world's almost 200 countries can be called full democracies, a new UN report maintained. The document from the UN's Development Program also noted that while 81 countries began experimenting with multiparty political systems in the final two decades of the 20th century, almost half "have lapsed back into authoritarianism or conflict" or no longer "seem to be in transition." Since 1990, it said, 38 new multinational peacekeeping missions were begun, compared with only 16 between the end of World War II and 1989, an indication that "the fabric of global peace is fraying."

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