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Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, Iraq's new president, told an Arab newspaper Wednesday that the delay in naming him to lead the interim government was because he was not the preferred choice of coalition authorities and has no links to the American administration. His version, however, differed from that of American officials, who dismissed suggestions that the US was unhappy with Yawar's nomination. Yawar, a US- and Saudi-educated civil engineer, will lead the country until elections are held, no later than next January. Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the US and Britain attempted to address Security Council concerns that Iraq might not enjoy full sovereignty under a resolution they submitted. A second draft, therefore, was presented.

Two American military vehicles were fired on Wednesday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, injuring one of the drivers. The incident occurred as the US State Department urged American civilians to leave the country, while acknowledging that Saudi security forces are aggressively pursuing terrorists. Two were killed Wednesday, including one on a most-wanted list, in an unrelated incident in Taif. Concerns have grown about security in the kingdom, which just days before was the scene of a hostage crisis at an oil-industry complex, where 22 people, mostly foreign workers, were killed. One gunman was arrested, but three others escaped.

Thirty-eight inmates at the Benfica detention center in Rio de Janeiro were killed, some decapitated, during a three-day rebellion that occurred just five weeks after 14 inmates were killed and mutilated at another prison, officials reported Tuesday after order was restored. The riot began when inmates broke through the prison's main gate and took guards and staffers hostage. Investigators suspect gangs within the prison used the chaos to settle scores.

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Battling a political crisis that threatens to bring down his government, Israeli leader Ariel Sharon vowed Wednesday to push his Gaza plan through despite opposition from cabinet ministers. A vote is scheduled Sunday, and Sharon proceeds with a fresh endorsement from the White House for giving up territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

The first wave of a UN peacekeeping force eventually to reach 800-strong established its command post in Haiti as it prepared to take over security duties from a US-led multinational task force at the end of June. The initial mission will involve disarming rebels who helped oust President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29.

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