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The White House won the support of its closest ally, Britain, for the decision to limit bidding on Iraq-reconstruction contracts to nations that supported the war effort. But in a second straight day of international furor over the new policy, the European Union threatened to scrutinize all such contracts to determine whether they violated US commitments to the World Trade Organization. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed for the decision to be reversed. Analysts said it would make next week's mission by former Secretary of State James Baker - to seek European help in forgiving much of Iraq's massive $125 billion debt - more complicated.

Difficult, if not insurmountable, obstacles stood in the way as government leaders from across the Continent gathered in Brussels for a critical two-day summit to decide the future of the European Union. They are to decide on approving the draft constitution for the bloc, which is scheduled to expand in May from 15 members to 25. But there is a deep split between governments pressing for the closest possible integration and those who worry that they'd be forced to surrender their sovereignty and influence under a future "superstate." Opposition to the draft charter was being led by Spain and Poland, whose president warned he'd veto it unless it is amended to limit the voting influence of the four strongest members: Germany, France, Britain, and Italy. EU rules require that the constitution be approved unanimously.

Almost a week of effort to flush out Taliban and other militants in southern and eastern Afghan-istan has resulted in no engagements, a US military spokes-man acknowledged. But he said that while the mission by troops on the ground had yet to find "anything spectacular," that did not mean "the air assault was not successful." Meanwhile, senior Afghan officials absolved US forces of blame in the deaths of six children in a raid associated with the offensive.

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A bomb exploded on a busy commercial street in Tel Aviv, Israel, killing at least three people and injuring 26 others. But police declared it was not an attack by Palestinian terrorists, linking it instead to a gangland feud. They said the target was a money-changer who has survived four previous attempts on his life.

Over the bitter objections of human-rights activists, Colombia's Senate approved tough new antiterrorism legislation sought by President Alvaro Uribe. The measure, which still requires review by the nation's highest court, gives the military power to search dwellings and detain suspects without a warrant, tap telephones, and use other means to help implement Uribe's pledge to wipe out four decades of leftist rebel insurgency.

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