President Bush won pledges from the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinians to take their first concrete steps toward peace. Meeting with him in Aqaba, Jordan, Israel's Ariel Sharon said he'd "immediately begin to remove unauthorized [Jewish] outposts" so the Palestinians may have "territorial contiguity" in the West Bank, a key demand in their campaign for statehood. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said he'd soon exert "full efforts" to persuade radical movements to cease "the armed intifada," one of Israel's major demands. From its base in the Gaza Strip, however, Hamas said it would refuse to "lay down arms" until "the last centimeter" of Palestinian land was liberated.Skip to next paragraph
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Any attempt to confront Iran militarily would be "suicide for the attacker," supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned. In what was seen as a response to the Group of Eight's vow not to ignore Iran's "advanced nuclear program" and US concerns that Al Qaeda terrorists are being sheltered there, Khamenei suggested that only "some weak elements" in the Islamic nation were susceptible to Western influence. But the son of the late shah, Reza Pahlavi, predicted a massive "test [of the regime's] prowess" next month "without needing a military operation."
Sentencing that could mean death by firing squad is due Thursday for the reputed boss of Vietnam's criminal underworld. Truong Van Cam, the best known of 155 defendants in the ruling Communist Party's crackdown on crime and corruption, was found guilty Wednesday of murder, assault, bribery of high-ranking government officials, operating gambling dens, and other charges.
No early resumption of peace negotiations appeared likely in Sri Lanka after the Tamil Tiger rebels rejected as "unsatisfactory" and "unacceptable" a government offer to discuss ways to end the latest stall. The rebels' move also makes them ineligible to participate in next week's meeting of would-be donors to the rebuilding of the nation torn by the 20-year war for Tamil separatism.
A four-time former prime minister was appointed to form yet another government in Nepal after the incumbent resigned under pressure last week. Surya Bahadur Thapa said he'd focus on renewed dialogue with the nation's communist rebels, who have been holding on-again, off-again peace negotiations with the government.
Heavy cranes were separating the wreckage of a passenger train and a freight train that collided head-on and erupted in flames in central Spain late Tuesday, killing at least 11 people and injuring 38 others. Sixteen more were listed as missing.