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A referendum on removing Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and West Bank is "a good idea," Israeli Prime Minister Sharon said as opinion polls showed majorities of respondents favor their dismantling. The plan, announced earlier this week, also won the support of the opposition Labor Party, which said it would vote to ensure passage in parliament. But 10 legislators from Sharon's Likud Party said they almost certainly would have to vote "no" and that they also oppose adding Labor to his ruling coalition.

Saying, "There is no knot which cannot be untied," Iran's Supreme Leader ordered another review of the thousands of disqualified candidates for the Feb. 20 parliamentary election. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also ruled out delaying the election and called for unspecified steps to ensure a high voter turnout. Some analysts have predicted that as few as 15 percent of those eligible will go to the polls. Parliament is dominated by members who call themselves reformers of the political system, as are the ranks of the disqualified candidates. The Guardian Council, which Khamenei appoints, already has reinstated 1,160 candidates.

The furor over Britain's involvement in the Iraq war grew, with protesters disrupting Parliament and a retired government weapons expert alleging that Prime Minister Blair overruled his own analysts to present "misleading" intelligence on Saddam Hussein's arsenal. Blair, who has ordered another inquiry into the matter, said he despaired of persuading his critics. Last week, the first such inquiry, by a senior judge, absolved the government of having "sexed up" its case for participating in the war.

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In a national TV address, the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear program offered "deepest regrets and unqualified apologies" for selling weapons secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya. Abdul Qadeer Khan also sought clemency from President Pervez Musharraf, although a friend said the scientist had acted with Musharraf's full knowledge. Whether Khan will be put on trial remained unclear, although analysts said doing so could make him a martyr and lead to further revelations that embarrass the powerful armed forces.

World health experts meeting on the bird flu scare scheduled a news conference for Thursday, apparently to recommend animal vaccinations as an alternative to the further slaughtering of chickens. At last estimate, at least 45 million chickens have been killed in Asia in an effort to halt the spread of the virus, which has been blamed for 16 human deaths. A World Health Organization official said, "We're going to have trouble keeping up" with the virus. But he cautioned that it is "nowhere close" to qualifying as a pandemic.

Two contractors were arrested in a city in south-central Turkey after an 11-story apartment building they helped to build collapsed without warning Monday night. At least 25 people are known to be dead; up to 100 others are believed to be buried in the debris. Police are investigating building-code violations.

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