World

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's return trip to the US later this month may be canceled, aides said, because of his efforts to craft an alternative plan for withdrawing troops and Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip. His original proposal was defeated Sunday in a referendum among members of his Likud movement. Sharon and President Bush both are scheduled to address a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington. Sharon was in the capital last month, seeking Bush's support for his plan. Meanwhile, results of an opinion poll published in the respected Yediot Ahronot newspaper indicated that if the plan had been voted on nationally, it would have passed easily.

Despite security challenges, work is ahead of schedule in organizing the election for Iraq's new government, the UN reported. But a spokeswoman said conditions are too dangerous to allow nominations for elections commissioners and directors to be accepted at several regional offices of the coalition forces and that the vote will not be held next January if security does not improve. Meanwhile, in the volatile Shiite city of Najaf, US commanders estimated 20 Iraqi resisters loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were killed by retaliatory fire after they attacked an American base.

A state of emergency was declared and all Georgian TV channels were ordered off the air by the leader of Ajaria Province as his confrontation with President Mikhail Saakashvili deepened. Aslan Abashidze also closed all schools for two weeks, and police in the provincial capital, Batumi, used water cannons and nightsticks against hundreds of protesters, reportedly injuring 15 so seriously that they required hospitalization. Saakas-hvili has given Abashidze until May 12 to disband his paramilitary forces and end repression of political opponents or new elections will be ordered for the province. But Abashidze, who is defying the ultimatum, has vowed even tougher measures to deal with "attempts to create a hotbed of disorder."

The remains of 67 people were recovered by police in central Nigeria after a new round of fighting between Muslims and Christians. But a commander said the number of dead was many times higher and most of the houses and a mosque in one town were in flames or had otherwise been destroyed. Christian tribesmen were blamed for starting the latest conflict with an attack Sunday over competing claims to some of the area's most fertile farmland, which critics say was allocated irresponsibly by the national government. Violence in the region dates back to 2001, but has been especially deadly in the past three months, with at least 350 people killed. Muslim leaders vowed revenge for Sunday's attack.

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