World

A series of loud explosions was heard in Iraq's capital as the Monitor went to press, and reports said smoke appeared to be rising from one end of the compound used by the US as a headquarters for its administration. Similar blasts from mortar rounds were reported in Baghdad Monday. They extended a pattern of terrorist attacks that have intensified with the onset of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Meanwhile, the government of Spain joined the exodus from Baghdad, summoning most of its diplomatic staff home for consultations on security at what it called "a very complicated moment."

Yasser Arafat extended the term of the emergency Palestinian Authority government - another indication, analysts said, that he and Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia still cannot agree on how control of security affairs should be divided. Qureia's choice, Nasser Yousef, is opposed by Arafat, who has been reluctant to cede power to anyone else. Qureia's mandate to form a cabinet was to expire at midnight Tuesday, and he told journalists he would not submit his nominees for legislative approval until at least next week.

All of the Muslim militants killed or captured in a raid in the holy city of Mecca were identified as members of Al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia's interior minister said. Prince Nayef told a state-controlled newspaper that the militants engaged police in a shootout Monday, resulting in two deaths and the surrender of six others, plus confiscation of a large cache of weapons. Mecca is Islam's holiest city, and much of the Saudi royal family's legitimacy rests on its ability to keep it safe. Nayef said the Al Qaeda cell intended to carry out "missions" against pilgrims there during Ramadan.

Three cabinet ministers were fired, Parliament was suspended, and Army troops were patroling the streets of the capital, Colombo, as the feud between Sri Lanka's top two leaders took a dramatic new turn. The moves by President Chandrika Kumaratunga came as her political rival, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was in Washington for meetings with senior US leaders. She ousted the information, defense, and interior ministers, all of whom are said to favor concessions to the nation's Tamil rebels, and took control of their departments herself. But she said she remained open to peace talks with the rebels. Wickreme-singhe blasted her actions as "irresponsible and precipitous."

More than 200 people were reported dead or missing after heavy flooding sent thousands of felled trees crashing into a tourist town near a reserve for orangutans on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Authorities said timber - much of it illegally harvested - had blocked a rain-swollen river above the reserve until the pressure became too great and swept it away, burying parts of the town in mud, logs, and rocks two stories high.

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