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Led by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Labor Party members of Ariel Sharon's coalition government resigned, the first step in setting Israel on the path to an early election. The moves came as last-minute efforts to reach a compromise over a vote in parliament over the coalition government's proposed 2003 budget failed. The Labor Party was demanding that $145 million that Sharon allocated to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip go instead to social programs.

The security chief of Yasser Arafat's newly confirmed cabinet pledged he would carry out the Palestinian Authority leadership's decision to prevent terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. But radical groups scorned the cabinet, and within hours of its confirmation a Palestinian gunman infiltrated a West Bank settlement, killing a woman and two teenage girls before being shot dead himself. Another Palestinian was killed by guards after he shot at a crew of laborers.

The mysterious gas used by special forces in putting down a hostage crisis in Moscow last weekend was based on a fast-acting opiate with medical applications, Russian news agencies reported. They said the agent, fentanyl, is an anesthetic that cannot "provoke a lethal outcome" by itself. The report came as the number of deaths from the ordeal rose to 119. Meanwhile, at Russia's behest, Danish police arrested a senior Chechen rebel who was attending a long-planned meeting of exiles from his troubled region.

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White right-wing "terrorists" were blamed for a series of explosions that killed one person and damaged rail lines and a mosque in South Africa. Nine bombs, all in black townships near Johannesburg, contained ammonium nitrate, a chemical used in the mining industry, police said. Two white males were seen "acting suspiciously" in Soweto before the explosions, they said. Above, police inspect a damaged mosque in Soweto.

The first face-to-face negotiations on peace in Ivory Coast opened between the government and dissident Army troops who mutinied more than five weeks ago. But prospects for success appeared far from certain. The rebels demand a new national election within six months, arguing that opposition leader Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim, was unjustly barred from the 2000 vote that brought Gbagbo to power. For his part, Gbagbo insists that the dissidents give up their guns before there can be political change.

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