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A female hostage was shot to death trying to escape from a Moscow theater seized by dozens of gunmen in behalf of Chechen separatism. Despite a massive security perimeter set up outside, the raiders vowed to collapse the building with everyone inside unless Russia withdrew its troops from Chechnya within a week. About 150 hostages were allowed to leave soon after the takeover of the theater during a popular musical Wednesday, but negotiators said they'd been told no more would be freed. President Vladimir Putin canceled his trip to a conference in Mexico on Asian-Pacific economic cooperation to deal with the crisis. Critics said it was a major embarrassment to Putin and pointed up the failure of security forces to anticipate or prevent terrorism.

It was not immediately clear whether the hostage crisis would cause Russia to drop its vocal opposition to the US draft resolution on Iraq, now before the UN Security Council. The Bush administration indicated it wants debate on the measure wrapped up quickly, and diplomats said a vote could come early next week. France, an early opponent, was willing to withhold a veto, reports quoted its own diplomats as saying. China also has veto power, but President Jiang Zemin was expected to be asked on his visit to the Bush ranch in Texas to support – or at least not to block – the resolution.

Only "decisive action to end terror and violence" will bring progress on the creation of a state, special US envoy William Burns told senior Palestinians on Day Two of his new mission to promote a "roadmap" for peace in the Middle East. He said the Palestinian administration also must "reform." The Palestinian delegates to the meeting said they were angry that Yasser Arafat, due to announce his new cabinet choices next week, was not included. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, although yet to meet with Burns, said the plan asks the Jewish state to concede too much with no guarantee the Palestinians would reciprocate.

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Despite his late slip in opinion polls, all indications pointed to a landslide victory for leftist candidate Luiz Inacio (Lula) da Silva in Sunday's presidential runoff election in Brazil. Support for the former metal worker dipped two points to 59 percent in the respected Datafolha poll released Wednesday. But backing for his rival, US-educated economist and former Health Minister Jose Serra, also dropped – to 31 percent.

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