World

Despite maintaining that it has no weapons of mass destruction, Iraq will send "huge" numbers of US and British troops home "in plastic bags" if there's war, the newspaper owned by Saddam Hussein's elder son said Sunday. Meanwhile, a senior Hussein adviser told journalists the Baghdad government sees nothing more it can do to prevent armed conflict, and more Iraqi scientists refused to be interviewed privately by UN inspectors.

No surprises are expected in Monday's eagerly awaited report to the UN Security Council on the weapons searches in Iraq. Chief inspector Hans Blix is considered likely to say that large gaps remain in Iraq's cooperation in its mandate to disarm. But for his part, the leader of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, Muhamad El Baradei, will give Iraq a "quite satisfactory" report card on enabling his inspectors to do their work, although he'll insist that more time is needed to complete their searches, his spokesman said.

At least 12 Palestinians were killed in the deepest raid into the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces since the current intifada began. Sixty-seven others were wounded in a search for "factories" that make guns and other weapons. Palestinians accused Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of timing the raid to try to win more votes in tomorrow's crucial national election. His Likud Party appears poised to win it, but not without the need to form a coalition with right-wing ultranationalist and religious groups.

Tear gas and stun grenades were being used by troops at a French garrison in Ivory Coast's commercial capital to fend off thousands of protesters angry at a new peace deal they say favors antigovernment rebels. The accord, brokered by France and agreed to Saturday by President Laurent Gbagbo, calls for a new power-sharing government that includes rebel leaders. Gbagbo appealed for calm, but his own Army chiefs said the deal "humiliates" the nation's defense and security forces.

The first commercial flight between Taiwan and mainland China since 1949 brought 243 people back to the island from Shanghai for the start of Lunar New Year celebrations. The service, via Hong Kong, was the first of 16 scheduled charter flights for the occasion by Taiwan's China Airlines and was seen by analysts as more evidence of warming relations between the two governments. Air travel between China and Taiwan has long been possible, but only via indirect routes and involving a change of carriers.

A town that was destroyed by wildfire 64 years ago once again confronted disaster in Australia's Victoria state as the nation battled a new round of blazes, driven by soaring summer temperatures and high winds. The danger was so widespread that thousands of people abandoned annual Australia Day celebrations to try to defend their homes with garden hoses. At least 536 houses have been destroyed to date, and 122 fires in Victoria alone still were burning.

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