World

In one of its strongest public stands to date, Britain said it reserved the right to use military force against Iraq even without UN backing. The announcement came as defense officials of the US's strongest ally prepared to ship heavy armor to the Iraqi theater to support troops mobilized last week. Meanwhile, senior Iraqis were insisting that although their weapons declaration to the UN "answered everything," they would welcome "any questions" that top inspectors may have when they visit Baghdad next weekend.

With two weeks to go before Israel's crucial national election, the opposition Labor Party announced it will not rejoin a coalition government led by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon if he wins a new term. But Sharon, weakened by corruption scandals that could cost his Likud movement several seats in parliament, said he'll ask his top rival to help form another "unity" government anyway if he wins. Otherwise, a coalition with ultranationalist and religious parties would be necessary, although that would leave Sharon vulnerable to their political demands, analysts said.

Police were claiming an important breakthrough in Indonesia after one of two prime suspects in last fall's terrorist bombings on Bali confessed to a central role in the attacks. The men were arrested late Monday as they tried to flee the country. The arrests bring to 17 the number of suspects captured to date. The Oct. 12 explosions killed almost 200 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Leaders of all three rebel factions in Ivory Coast were gathering in Paris for negotiations aimed at ending the four-month insurgency that has split the world's largest producer of cocoa. The last two rebel groups signed a truce Monday with the government of President Laurent Gbagbo, making the trip to France possible. Gbagbo has offered the dissidents - mainly mutinying Army troops - amnesty but says he will not accept their demand that he resign and schedule a new election.

As many as 70,000 people, the largest rally in Turkish Cypriot history, jammed a square in Nicosia to demand that their leader agree to a deal with the Greek community on reunifying the divided Mediterranean island nation. But Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, who's to meet again Wednesday with his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Glafkos Clerides, has complained that such rallies weaken his negotiating position. Cyprus is invited to join the European Union, although the EU will admit only the Greek side if a peace isn't forged by Feb. 28.

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