World

Searching for ways to forge a single strategy on dealing with Iraq, European leaders were active on two fronts. NATO opted for informal consultations to try break the deadlock over protecting alliance member Turkey against an Iraqi counterattack. Meanwhile, the European Union scheduled an emergency summit for Monday to try to close the deep rifts that have opened with the US over possible war. Meanwhile, a senior German official said his government and France had the support of all but four UN Security Council members for their antiwar stance.

In related developments:

• British Prime Minister Tony Blair's support for the US position on disarming Iraq is exacting a heavy cost to the popularity of his Labour Party, results of a new opinion poll published in The Times (London) showed. Blair and Labour fell to a 35 percent approval rating, the party's lowest in 10 years.

• Saddam Hussein will inform a meeting of the Arab League Saturday that he'll neither accept exile nor step down as leader of Iraq, an Arabic-language newspaper reported, citing a copy of an internal Baghdad government document.

• Three more governments, Portugal, Ukraine, and Malaysia, closed their embassies in Iraq or were evacuating all but a few senior diplomats.

• Fifty antiwar activists - some of them Americans - traveling convoy-style from London to Iraq received entry visas to serve as "human shields" in the event of US-led attacks.

Opposition leaders in Venezuela said they now had "no problem" debating a proposed Aug. 19 referendum on President Hugo Chávez's rule. The idea was suggested by ex-US President Carter as a way to end the nation's political crisis. Previously, the opposition had ignored the proposal in favor of a constitutional amendment that would have shortened Chávez's rule and triggered an immediate election to replace him.

A two-thirds majority was needed for passage as Paraguay's Senate voted on whether to remove widely unpopular President Luis Gonzalez Macchi from office. Gonzalez Macchi, who was appointed to the office in 1999 after his predecessor resigned, has been the subject of weeks of impeachment proceedings for alleged fraud, misappropriation of government funds, the kidnaping and torture of political opponents, and buying a stolen car.

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