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By a 67-to-45 vote, members of Israel's parliament OK'd Prime Minister Sharon's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Armed with that vote, Sharon fired one cabinet minister who'd sided against him and said he would not give in to four others who threatened to quit unless he agreed to a national referendum on the issue. "I am opposed [to a referendum] because it will lead to terrible tensions and a rift in the public," he said.

Saying, "We will not give in to terrorism," Prime Minister Juni-chiro Koizumi ruled out withdrawing Japan's troops from Iraq after a civilian was taken hostage and threatened with beheading. Terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Al Qaeda Organization of Holy War said it would execute the captive, a tourist, in 48 hours if its demand was not met. About 550 Japanese soldiers work on reconstruction projects in Iraq.

Negotiators trying to win agreement from Iran on halting the enrichment of uranium left so-called "last chance" talks without comment after the Tehran government again rejected demands for anything more than a temporary suspension. But one Iranian negotiator said: "We are trying to come to an agreement. The next meeting will be soon." Britain, France, and Germany offered technical help on the peaceful uses of nuclear power, plus a new trade deal, in return for abandoning enrichment. Informed sources said before the talks that a rejection probably would result in European backing for the US position: that Iran should be reported to the UN Security Council next month for sanctions because of its suspected weapons program.

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The counting of votes in Afghanistan's historic presidential election ended, and the special commission investigating alleged cheating at the polls announced it was drafting its report. Interim President Hamid Karzai reportedly won 55.4 percent of the votes Oct. 9, enough to ensure a first-round victory. But because the foreign experts looking into reports of fraud have yet to issue their findings, the outcome isn't expected to be made official until this weekend. Karzai's inauguration would follow in about a month.

Confronting certain defeat, the president-elect of the European Union's executive commission withdrew his entire slate of proposed deputies and asked for "more time to look at this issue." José Manuel Barroso of Portugal angered the 732-member European Parliament by nominating Italian Rocco Buttiglione to head the EU's justice and security functions. But-tiglione, a Roman Catholic, has been outspoken against homosexuality. Barroso's decision means that Romano Prodi, whose presidency ends Sunday, will remain in office until a new slate of nominees is approved.

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