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North Korea was reported to have offered the US four major concessions in last week's talks on its nuclear program. Western diplomats, on condition of anonymity, said China's top expert on North Korea told them the latter was willing to suspend the program, readmit nuclear inspectors, suspend tests of its ballistic missiles, and halt the export of missiles. In return, the expert said, North Korea asked for diplomatic relations with the US and "credible" assurances of its security. China staged and moderated the talks in Beijing.

Police were manning more roadblocks in and around Beijing in a search for people with SARS symptoms, but the World Health Organization complained that it still has been given too little information by the Chinese government to combat the virus effectively. China and Hong Kong together reported 13 more deaths from the illness Monday. Meanwhile, the WHO declared Vietnam the first country to have eradicated the problem.

Prospects for approval Tuesday by the Palestinian parliament of Prime Minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas's cabinet improved when the Fatah movement of Yasser Arafat told its legislators to vote "yes." Analysts saw the decision as significant because of the weeks of wrangling between Abbas and Arafat over the composition of the cabinet. For its part, Israel's government said the installation of Abbas (above) would not result in a troop pullback from Palestinian areas or a release of Palestinian prisoners until he waged "a serious fight against terrorism."

An eagerly awaited Irish Republican Army statement that it would be willing to surrender its weapons as part of a final peace deal in Northern Ireland was welcomed by British Prime Minister Blair. But before agreeing to go ahead with a May 29 election on Catholic/Protestant power-sharing in Northern Ireland, Blair was still demanding a response to the "absolutely crucial" issue of whether the IRA would pledge to end all paramilitary activity, such as gathering intelligence for potential terrorist attacks and inflicting beatings on Catholics perceived as not sufficiently supportive of its cause.

A runoff election for president in Argentina was set for May 18 after Sunday's first-round voting failed to produce a winner. As expected, ex-President Carlos Menem took the most votes, 24.3 percent, but analysts predicted he'll have an uphill battle against Santa Cruz Province Gov. Nestor Kirchner, who won 22 percent of the ballots. For a first-round victory, a candidate needed 45 percent.

With vote-counting nearing completion, the ruling Colorado Party and its presidential candidate were coasting to victory in Paraguay. Ex-Education Minister Nicanor Duarte Frutos had campaigned on the theme of redeeming the landlocked nation's image, which has been tarnished by years of political upheaval, corruption, and a weak economy. The Colorado Party has held power for 56 years.

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