World

US forces arrested 46 Iraqis and confiscated hundreds of hand grenades in raids across the Sunni triangle, but six more Americans were killed in weekend violence. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to announce as soon as monday whether he'll send a mission to Iraq to assess whether its new government should be chosen by direct election - as demanded by the Shiite majority - or by regional caucuses, as planned by the US.

Despite last week's hostilities, Israel and Hizbullah, its bitter Islamic militant foe, will hold the first phase of an agreed-upon prisoner exchange Thursday, the latter said. The deal calls for the freeing of four Israelis in exchange for 35 people from Arab countries, plus 400 Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called the exchange "correct, moral, and responsible." On Jan. 19, Hiz- bullah killed an Israeli soldier along the border with Lebanon, drawing airstrikes in retaliation.

For the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, parliament passed "triple urgent" legislation seeking to overturn the disqualification of thousands of would-be candidates for next month's election. The designation signifies serious jeopardy to the nation's basic rights. But analysts said the move could be only symbolic because the unelected Guardian Council, which vetoed the candidates on grounds that they're insufficiently loyal to Islam, also vets all legislation and could keep the bill from being enacted.

Amid soaring hopes for political reform, new Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili took his oath of office two months after leading the street protests that toppled his predecessor, Eduard Shevardnadze. He pledged to unite the former Soviet republic and nurse its battered economy to prosperity. The ceremonies were attended by Secretary of State Powell, who pledged $166 million in US aid and invited Saakashvili to visit Washington next month.

Reports of deaths and infections from so-called Asian "bird flu" rose to eight, and UN health experts warned that the virus has the potential to be far more serious than last year's SARS outbreak. The deaths all were in Vietnam. But in Thailand, at least two cases were confirmed, and in Indonesia authorities said the disease had infected its chicken flocks although it was not yet believed to have spread to humans. Millions of chickens have been slaughtered across Asia since last fall to try to keep the virus from spreading.

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