World

Iraq's Governing Council upped the number of dead from Tuesday's terrorist attacks in Baghdad and Karbala to 271, although health ministry officials cautioned that the count might never be conclusive. With a three-day period of mourning for the victims under way, 15 suspects were under arrest for the attacks. At least five of them appear to be Iranian, a US military commander said. Ceremonies for the signing of Iraq's interim constitution were rescheduled to Friday.

Three more senior members of Hamas were killed when the car they were riding in was rocketed by an Israeli helicopter in the Gaza Strip. The Army said they'd been involved in recent terrorist attacks and were planning more. The attack was the second there in five days; on Saturday an airstrike killed three Islamic Jihad extremists. Meanwhile, after months of delay, Yasser Arafat agreed to a reform demanded by foreign aid donors: paying Palestinian security police directly. Previously, their commanders had been given bundles of cash to distribute to them.

US marines in Haiti put themselves between deputies to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and rebels seeking to keep them from flying into exile. The rebels had threatened to arrest Prime Minister Yvon Neptune, but it wasn't clear whether he was among those fleeing. The marines expanded their mission to protect other Aristide supporters from reprisals but said they had no orders to disarm people on either side.

New violence erupted in Venezuela's capital after the electoral council ruled that barely half the signatures on a petition seeking a recall of leftist President Hugo Chávez were valid. It said 876,000 disputed signatures still could be regarded as valid if signers came forward to identify their handwriting. They were given five days to do so, beginning March 18. By law, 2.4 million valid signatures are needed for a recall referendum; Chávez opponents had submitted 3.4 million. At least two opposition protesters died in confrontations with Army units in Caracas, and similar clashes were continuing in the city of Puerto la Cruz.

Twenty-nine government soldiers died defending a communications tower in eastern Nepal against the biggest offensive by communist rebels since peace negotiations collapsed last summer. An Army commander said his forces killed 10 of the attackers in a firefight that lasted six hours. The tower was destroyed, cutting phone service to the area.

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