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Claiming they are closing in on Saddam Hussein, US forces raided homes and farms in Sunni Muslim areas around the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and in the ousted dictator's home town of Tikrit, detaining dozens of suspected loyalists. "If he stays stationary, we'll find him. If they try to move, they run the risk of running into one of our patrols," said Col. James Hickey in Tikrit. Meanwhile, burial services were held in a nearby village for Hussein's two sons and a grandson killed in a firefight with US troops July 22.

With the first 300 regional peacekeepers due to arrive today, Liberia's defense minister accused rebels of trying to derail the stabilization effort as battles continued in Buchanan, the West African nation's No. 2 city, and in central Gbarnga. Clashes also were reported Saturday in the capital, Monrovia, as Liberian President Charles Taylor announced that he would step down Aug. 11. Taylor, indicted by the UN for war crimes, has agreed to asylum in Nigeria. But it wasn't immediately clear when he would leave the country, as President Bush has demanded.

After a brief standoff, 17 Palestinian militants held at Yasser Arafat's compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah agreed to remain there, to refrain from violence, and to have contact with only their families. The militants reportedly were detained at gunpoint Saturday after rejecting Arafat's request to move to the less politically volatile town of Jericho. One member of the group claimed Israel demanded their removal as a condition for allowing Arafat to leave the compound, where he's been confined for the past 18 months.

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Denouncing US envoy John Bolton as "human scum," North Korea's foreign ministry said it would refuse any dealings with him at six-party talks on Pyongyang's suspected nuclear weapons program - while still planning to attend. In South Korea last week, Undersecretary of State Bolton referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il as a "tyrannical dictator" and said his people were living a "nightmare." South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia also are expected to join the talks, which the North agreed to Friday, reversing its previous insistance on direct negotiations with the US.

Saying they expect to find no more survivors from a truck bomb that leveled a military hospital near volatile Chechnya Friday, Russian officials switched from a rescue to a cleanup operation. There was no claim of responsibility for the suicide attack, which killed 50 people and injured more than 60 others, but authorities suspect Chechen rebels.

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