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Loyalists of Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were warned to give up their weapons and leave the holy city of Najaf or be killed by US forces, who said they were preparing "to finish this fight." But Sadr urged his followers to keep fighting even if he's captured or killed. Meanwhile, in a possible sign of a split in the ranks of Iraq's interim government, Deputy President Ibrahim Jaafari said administering Najaf should be left to Iraqi forces and that US troops should withdraw.

A ballistic missile with the range to hit Israel or US bases in the Middle East was tested successfully by Iran, the government said, amid renewed speculation that the Jewish state may attempt airstrikes to halt its nuclear program. But a spokesman said the missile is strictly for defensive purposes. Meanwhile, President Mohamad Khatami insisted again that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful. But if other nations try "to deny us our basic right [to develop it], we have to be prepared to pay the price," he said. All but 52 members of parliament signed legislation Wednesday that would oblige the government to continue develop- ment of the nuclear program.

Palestinian radicals with ties to Yasser Arafat claimed responsibility for an explosion at a West Bank checkpoint that caused at least one death and wounded 13 other people. But it was unclear whether the bombing by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade - the first in a month - was premature; there had been warnings that Jerusalem was to be targeted. All but three of the victims were Palestinians.

New atrocities against residents of Darfur conflict with claims by Sudan's govern- ment that it's making the region secure again, human rights activists said. The UN's Humanitarian Affairs Office and Human Rights Watch accused government forces of attacking Darfur villages by helicopter while Muslim Janjaweed militiamen have raped and beaten female refugees outside the shelter of camps to which they've fled. Rather than disarming the Janjaweed, Sudan's Army is absorbing them, Human Rights Watch claimed. On July 30, the UN Security Council gave Sudan a month to crack down on the Janjaweed or face unspecified sanctions.

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