World

President Bush tried to shore up support for new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, telephoning him for the first time to reiterate his commitment to a state at peace with Israel. The call came amid a major challenge to Abbas by Palestinian radical groups via a new wave of terrorist bombings. The latest, apparently by a woman student Monday in a shopping mall in northern Israel, killed the attacker and three bystanders and injured dozens of others. Despite the attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said he'll keep talking with Abbas.

Prospects appeared uncertain for a unanimous vote in the UN Security Council Wednesday on lifting economic sanctions against Iraq. France, Russia, and China all have sounded concerns about the US-sponsored proposal, although American Ambassador John Negroponte insisted it was in its "final" form. None of the council's permanent members has threatened to veto the measure; French President Jacques Chirac hinted Monday at abstaining.

US diplomatic missions across Saudi Arabia are to close for Wednesday - and perhaps longer - as a precaution against possible new acts of terrorism. A warning posted on their websites, said "credible information" indicated "further attacks are being planned," although the targets were unspecified. Despite the planned withdrawal of US troops from the kingdom, four almost simultaneous terrorist explosions May 12 killed 34 people, seven of them Americans, and injured 194 others.

At least 40 schools were set on fire in volatile Aceh Province as Indonesian soldiers and marines tried to flush out separatist Muslim rebels. Fighting so far has been sporadic, although the rebels blamed 17 civilian deaths plus the school fires on the military, and the latter said it had killed five of the enemy and captured seven others. From exile, the rebel leader vowed his followers would carry on their 27-year campaign for independence "forever."

Setting aside massive economic problems, thousands of East Timorese gathered for ceremonies marking the first year of independence for the world's newest nation. But in a sign that its troubles may worsen before they improve, President Jose Gusmao said: "The conditions of ... the infrastructure don't attract investors." Meanwhile, the UN extended the mandate of its peacekeeping force for another year since the Timorese struggle to police their border with Indonesia.

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