World

Relatives and diplomats pleaded for release of an American and a Briton being held hostage by terrorists in Iraq as the deadline neared for their threatened decapitation. Both were taken captive at gunpoint last week at the same time as American Eugene Armstrong, whose headless remains were found Monday. The captors have demanded the freedom of female inmates from two Iraqi prisons; the US military says only two women are in its custody, both suspected of working in deposed dictator Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program. Meanwhile, a Turkish company halted work on reconstruction projects in Iraq to try to save the lives of 10 of its employees also threatened with execution. In another development, US Ambassador John Negroponte said voter registration would begin Oct. 15 for the national election scheduled for next January.

Work on enriching uranium in Iran already has resumed, the government said, in defiance of a demand by International Atomic Energy Agency members that all such activity stop within two months. Responding to the IAEA demand, President Mohamad Khatami told attendees at a military parade: "We've made our choice.... We will continue along our path, even if it leads to an end to international supervision." Iran insists its nuclear program is for electricity generation, which is "our natural and legal right." The US believes the program is for the development of nuclear weapons and is lobbying for the matter to be referred to the UN Security Council, which could order sanctions against Iran.

Five hundred "bunker buster" bombs that could be used against Iran's hardened nuclear facilities will be sold by the US to Israel, security sources in Jerusalem said. Neither government would comment, but the Pentagon said in June it was considering such a sale. Israel considers Iran's nuclear program a threat to its security, although government officials have said diplomatic pressure may be a more effective method to discourage its eventual employment. In 1981, Israeli airstrikes destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq.

An open-ended strike by tens of thousands of public-sector workers brought much of Israel to a halt as it was gearing up for its peak Feast of Tabernacles tourist season. Among the affected services: banking, air travel, shipping, trash collection, technical support functions for telephone and electric utilities, and kindergarten.

Delayed reports from rural areas of Haiti pushed the number of casualties from tropical storm Jeanne to more than 600 - six times as many as authorities previously said had died. A UN spokesman said the northern city of Gonaives appeared to be the hardest hit, with at least 500 of the dead. Another 11 people in the Dominican Republic side of the island drowned in storm-swollen rivers Monday, reports said. At last report, Jeanne was tracking north-northeast of Abaco Island in the Bahamas.

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