The makeup of Iraq's new government appeared to be at least a week from being announced as Shiite and Kurdish negotiators said they were making progress in resolving key disagreements that have been blocking completion. The major holdup: whether Kurdish militiamen will remain in their home region and be integrated into Iraq's standing army, taking orders from the new defense ministry in Baghdad. The two sides also had yet to agree on a timetable for Kurds to assume control of Kirkuk, a center of the nation's vital oil industry.Skip to next paragraph
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The pro-Syrian president of Lebanon was clinging to his office despite growing demands for his resignation and the refusal of the political opposition to join a unity government until he steps down. "Once you remove [Emile] Lahoud, you start a new Lebanon," opposition leader Walid Jumblatt told the Reuters news agency. He said a unity government with Lahoud remaining in office would be powerless because the president is "a Syrian puppet" and "is controlling everything." Meanwhile, sources monitoring the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon said its first phase was complete, although as many as 10,000 soldiers remained in the strategic Bekaa Valley.
Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other militant organizations told Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas they would extend a truce with Israel until year's end. But a Hamas leader said the agreement was on the condition that the Jewish state "stop aggression against Palestinian people and release all prisoners." Mohamad Nazzal also said, "Ending the period of calm will be in our hands." Abbas has sought a cease-fire declaration as a means of propelling the two sides back into peace negotiations. But a senior Israeli official dismissed the truce as an internal Palestinian matter and said his government expects Abbas to dismantle the militant organizations. Israel would refrain from military operations against the Palestinians as long as the policy was reciprocated, he said, but added: "As long as these organizations remain armed, I doubt very much that there will be quiet."
One of the best-known men in Russia survived an assassination attempt and said he had "an idea who could have taken out a contract on me." Anatoly Chubais, the chief of the nation's electricity monopoly and architect of the privatization that put former state-owned companies into the hands of a few tycoons in the 1990s, refused to name names, however. He was en route to work in Moscow when a bomb exploded next to his armored car and gunmen sprayed it with automatic rifle fire. Guards returned fire, and the assailants fled.