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Hamas led four other Palestinian militant organizations in rejecting a proposed new cease-fire with Israel. Such a truce is a major key to reviving peace negotiations between the two sides, and early reports indicated agreement was near on at least a limited truce that would spare civilians inside Israel - but not soldiers or settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip - from being trageted. But a Hamas spokesman said "this response ... is final." The Palestinians met for in Cairo under Egyptian government sponsorship.

Dozens of people became casualties across Afghanistan in one of the most violent weekends there since the ousting of the Taliban regime. On Sunday, a US warplane strafed a village where a wanted Taliban leader was believed hiding. He apparently escaped, but the attack killed nine children. That followed by several hours the explosion of a terrorist bomb in an outdoor Kandahar market, which wounded 18 people, many of them seriously. The Taliban denied responsibility for that incident but claimed it kidnapped five highway engineers near Kabul.

A national referendum will be held after all in Taiwan next March, but it will be limited to a formal demand that rival China relocate hundreds of missiles pointed at the island, President Chen Shui-bian said. His announcement came as Chinese Premier Wen Jibao left for a nine-day official visit to the US, with part of his trip expected to focus on lobbying against Taiwan's perceived push toward independence. For more than a week Chen had hinted that he'd ask Taiwan's voters to approve a measure on sovereignty.

New political unrest erupted in Iran, with hundreds of university students demanding freedom of speech and President Mohamad Khatami ordering that security be provided at all legal rallies after thugs beat a speaker as he began an address to the party that leads the nation's reform movement. The speaker, a senior member of parliament, required medical treatment. But Khatami's order failed to impress protesting students at Tehran University, who said he "doesn't have the courage" to back up his campaign promises of political reform.

Enough voters had gone to the polls across Russia by midday Sunday to make elections for a new lower house of parliament valid - and most signs pointed to a big win for allies of President Vladimir Putin. Security precautions were heavy, especially after Friday's terrorist bombing of a commuter train near Chechnya that killed at least 42 people and injured 200 others. If Putin's political allies win a two-thirds majority, they could amend the Constitution, giving him and future presidents the opportunity to seek more than two terms.

In a new move in its crackdown on terrorism, the government of Saudi Arabia offered rewards of more than $250,000 each for the capture of 26 most-wanted suspects. Their pictures appeared on the front pages of newspapers Sunday. The government also replaced police guards around the diplomatic quarter in the capital, Riyadh, with Special Forces units carrying machine guns.

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