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Israeli forces appeared on schedule to withdraw from positions in and around Bethlehem, and Prime Minister Sharon was meeting for the third time with his Palestinian counterpart as the Monitor went to press. But the chief of Israel's Shin Bet security service said pullbacks from other West Bank cities would take place only after the disarming of Hamas and other radical groups was under way by Palestinian Authority police.

Six more US soldiers were wounded in new attacks by Iraqi insurgents, and assassins murdered the chief of Saddam Hussein's tribe, perhaps because he'd publicly denounced the former dictator. In another incident, local American commanders denied any US involvement in an explosion that damaged a mosque in the volatile city of Fallujah, killing eight people.

Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents marched in protest at new legislation that, opponents say, would suppress dissent by undercutting freedom of speech, assembly, and the press. The bill is expected to pass the local assembly, and the administration of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said it wouldn't be amended no matter how many people rallied. But Tung expressed concern at the size of the turnout and offered assurances that the liberties would be safeguarded.

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Saying, "You won't have Charles Taylor to kick around any more," a senior Liberian official offered assurances that the embattled president would leave his post - once a comprehensive peace accord with rebel forces is in place. Taylor's refusal to quit until his term ends in January helped to collapse the latest truce with the rebels, and its 30-day limit on forming a transitional government without him is halfway to expiring. Meanwhile, the Bush administration said it is exploring ways to bring peace to Liberia and did not close to door to the idea of contributing troops to an international peacekeeping force there.

Police killed four protesters in a suburb of Nigeria's capital, and four others died after being struck by a speeding vehicle in Day 2 of demonstrations against an unpopular hike in fuel prices. A general strike has idled seaports, causing worry that a prolonged walkout would affect crude oil exports, Nigeria's main source of income.

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