World

Israeli leaders were not confirming a claim by new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas that his postponed meeting with the Jewish state's leader will be held Thursday. The session, originally set for Wednesday, was postponed at the demand of Yasser Arafat, who insists that he alone is responsible for peace discussions with Israel. Abbas and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon are, however, to meet with President Bush next week on the latter's trip to the region. But Abbas served notice in an interview with the Jerusalem newspaper Haaretz that Palestinians will not "relinquish" their controversial "right of return," although he added that "this does not mean we want to destroy the state of Israel."

The organizer of the May 12 terrorist bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, may be among five militants arrested by police, a leading newspaper reported. It said Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi is a member of Al Qaeda. The arrests, in the Muslim holy city of Medina, were announced by the Interior Minister, but he did not mention al-Ghamdi or the Al Qaeda connection. The bombings killed 34 people, eight of them Americans. More attacks in Saudi Arabia are believed imminent.

The Bush administration is not serious about combating terrorism, senior leaders in Iran claimed, accusing it instead of trying to tempt dissidents there to reject Islamic government. The Foreign Ministry also said the US had shown "indecision" in dealing with a group on its list of terrorist organizations, the People's Mujahideen in neighboring Iraq. In another development related to the ongoing battle of words between the US and Iran, Russia's Foreign Ministry said it won't tolerate criticism for helping to build a nuclear power plant there.

The problems dogging Peru's President Alejandro Toledo worsened as riot police moved to enforce his declaration of a 30-day national emergency. They evicted hundreds of striking school teachers who'd been camped outside the building that houses Congress to demand higher pay. Also striking were healthcare workers, employees of the court system, and farmers - the latter blocking the transport of food via 35 public roads. But analysts said law- enforcement also could become a problem for the cash-strapped government, since the wives of police and retired officers also have threatened to join the protest early next week.

Despite strikes already under way - and the threat of even larger walkouts next week - France's Cabinet OK'd an unpopular pension reform plan that will require workers to stay on the job longer before they may retire. President Jacques Chirac called the plan "urgent" and "fair" and said it would avoid having to resort to "brutal measures" later. It now goes to parliament, where Chirac wants a vote before the summer recess. The issue triggered a protest Sunday in Paris by an estimated 300,000 people.

At least 200 more people were hurt and the hunt was on for survivors as a strong aftershock rattled the area of Algeria that's still digging out from last week's powerful earthquake. Incomplete casualty statistics from the first quake stand at 2,218 deaths, 9,497 injured, and 20,000 homeless.

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