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By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn and Kristen Broman-Worthington / March 18, 2003



The US, Britain, and Spain pulled their proposed resolution on Iraqi failure to disarm off the table in the UN Security Council, concluding that a vote would have been "close," although "consensus will not be possible." The move came amid a flurry of international developments as the world awaited what appeared to be the inevitable start of war against the Baghdad regime:

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• UN weapons inspectors checked out of their hotels in Baghdad and were preparing to follow US advice that they leave Iraq within 24 hours.

• Saddam Hussein admitted his government once had weapons of mass destruction "for self-defense," mainly against Israel. But he protested that they're no longer in his arsenal.

• Germany, Russia, China, and India closed their embassies in Baghdad or advised their nationals to leave Iraq immediately.

• All 195 UN monitors pulled out of the border zone between Iraq and Kuwait, the likely crossing point for an invasion.

• British Prime Minister Tony Blair summoned his cabinet to an emergency meeting as Attorney General Lord Goldsmith ruled that war would be legal on the grounds of existing UN resolutions. But ex-Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, the ruling Labour Party's leader in Parliament, resigned in protest.

Yasser Arafat's own legislative council rejected - by a vote of 49 to 22 - his demand that a Cabinet formed by a future Palestinian prime minister be "presented" to him. The wording of Arafat's demand left unclear whether he wanted authority to veto any or all of those chosen. But he won passage of other requests deemed less important, and he has reserved for himself control over security issues and all relations with Israel. Meanwhile, in an early-morning raid in the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces killed an Islamic Jihad leader and rounded up hundreds of other men. In intense fighting, nine other Palestinians died, one of them a 4-year-old girl.

Consolidating his forces' takeover of the Central African Republic, rebel chief François Bozize announced in a radio address to the nation that he was suspending the Constitution and disbanding the National Assembly. The former Army commander said the legislature would be replaced by a "transitional national council" and that he'd seek "postconflict aid" from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Ousted President Ange-Felix Patasse was reported to be in a hotel in Cameroon and had not spoken publicly since the coup.

Major gains were being claimed by El Salvador's former leftist guerrillas in elections for Congress and mayors' offices, among them the capital, San Salvador. The official vote count had yet to be released Monday, but tallies by news organizations appeared to confirm the claim. If accurate, the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front would pull two seats ahead of the ruling ARENA alliance in the legislature.

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