World

A Palestinian boy of 12 was caught by Israeli forces before he could pass through a West Bank security checkpoint wearing a bomb strapped to his body. The incident was the second of its type in eight days involving a Palestinian child not yet in his teens. It came as Hamas named its successor to slain leader Ahmed Yassin. Ahmed Abdel al-Rantisi backed away from threats that the terrorist group would target Americans.

With 100 days to go before Iraq is to assume responsibility for its own affairs, US administrator Paul Bremer announced he'll establish a defense ministry and a cabinet-level committee for national security by week's end. But resistance to Iraq's postwar recovery continued unabated, with the assassination of the police chief in Hilla, a city 60 miles south of Baghdad. His death came less than a day after insurgents killed nine other police there.

Police experts were trying to determine the power of a bomb found partially buried under the tracks of a major rail line between Paris and Basel, Switzerland. The device, which had seven detonators and nitrate fuel, was discovered at midday by an employee of the state-run SNCF service in the town of Montieramey. A radical group calling itself AZF has threatened to target French railways with nine bombs unless the government paid a ransom of $5 million, but it did not immediately claim responsibility for the device found Wednesday.

Opponents of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez were dealt a potentially decisive blow to their hopes of ousting him in a nationwide referendum this summer, as the Supreme Court voided its own ruling in favor of the recall effort. A subpanel of justices decided last week that the opponents were successful in obtaining more than the minimum number of signatures required on petitions seeking to force the referendum. Organizers accused Chávez of manipulating the court and said they'd pursue the remaining legal options open to them "to the point of obstinacy."

Leaders of the small Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti complained that a canceled visit by Germany's president would damage its image and economy. Johannes Rau, who was to call on German personnel assigned to a counterterrorism task force there, backed out Tuesday after intelligence units uncovered a plot to assassinate him.

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