A teenage Hamas militant killed himself and wounded three Israeli soldiers, the fourth such attack in two days, and analysts said the new wave of violence was canceling out Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas as a Palestinian leader. In response, Israel closed its borders to all Palestinians, forbidding even travel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But senior aides to Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister, said the time wasn't yet right to exile Palestinian Authority chief Yasser Arafat, who has been unwilling to surrender any of his power to Abbas, because "the world would see this as a step against peace." Visiting foreign leaders who meet with Arafat will not be received by Israel's leadership, however, the government announced.Skip to next paragraph
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New challenges to the rebuilding of Iraq surfaced, with thousands of Shiite Muslims parading through Baghdad in the largest protest so far against US occupation and oil industry officials complaining that looting and lack of security were forcing scaled-back production goals. Meanwhile, France ruled out the use of its veto in the UN Security Council against a US-backed proposal to end sanctions against Iraq. But President Jacques Chirac said the proposal gives the UN an "insufficient" role in postwar Iraq and his government would seek "to sensibly improve the text."
A threatened military offensive against Muslim separatist rebels in Indonesia's volatile Aceh Province was under way, with attack planes rocketing one base, hundreds of paratroops landing near the capital, Banda Aceh, and marines arriving by transport ship along the northern coast. The offensive began after last-ditch negotiations failed to salvage the shaky truce that the rebels and the government agreed to last Dec. 9.
Still more heavy rain was forecast for Sri Lanka, where flooding and landslides were blamed for at least 200 deaths. Another 150,000 people were reported homeless or missing, and the island's south-central region was without electricity and phone service. It wasn't clear how much harm the high waters have done to rice paddies and dairy farms, but harvested crops were reported damaged in storage bins.
Despite angering the US with his obstructionist tactics to war with Iraq, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt easily won a new four-year term in Sunday's national election. Voters gave his Liberal/Socialist coalition 97 of the 150 seats in parliament, although his Green Party partners lost 16 of their 20 seats.