World

The late Pope John Paul II lay in state at the Vatican as preparations began for his funeral later this week. But as millions of Roman Catholics around the world mourned their leader's passing, speculation already was under way about who might be elected to succeed him. Close observers said there is no clear favorite, although the college of cardinals, heavily dominated by Europeans, might seek to return an Italian to the office. Others considered as possibilities: Cardinal Claudio Hummes, a Brazilian, and Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria.

A Sunni Muslim was chosen as the first Speaker of Iraq's new parliament, and the prime minister, president, and vice president were expected to be named Wednesday, senior political leaders said. The speaker's post went to interim Industry Minister Hajem al-Hassani, who will have one Shiite and one Kurdish deputy. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for a weekend attack on Abu Ghraib prison that wounded 12 inmates and 44 US troops.

In a stormy weekend for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, his West Bank security commander quit in protest over unchecked lawlessness, then decided to stay on. Tawfiq Tirawi resigned Friday following a shooting spree by angry militants directed at Abbas's Ramallah compound. Meanwhile, Abbas demanded and accepted the resignation of another West Bank security official and served notice that he intends to replace hundreds of mid-level police with "others better equipped for the job."

Reveling in a landslide victory at the polls, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe joked that he planned to remain in office until "I am a century old." The hard-line leader's ZANU-PF won the two-thirds majority it needs in parliament to amend the Constitution at will. The opposition Movement for Democratic Chance rejected the outcome, calling it rigged. But the 13-nation African Union endorsed it as "credible."

The exiled president of Kyrgyzstan signed a protocol for his resignation and announced plans to leave office Monday. After meeting in Moscow with a delegation of new leaders from the former Soviet republic, Askar Akayev did not say why his resignation wasn't immediate. He fled March 24 as antigovernment protesters stormed the government headquarters, touching off a constitutional crisis.

With a memorial service to attend Monday for Pope John Paul II and the wedding of Prince Charles scheduled for Friday, Prime Minister Tony Blair is not yet ready to announce May 5 as the date of Britain's general election, his office said. Blair must first visit Queen Elizabeth II and ask her to dissolve Parliament before scheduling the vote. Local elections across Britain already are planned for May 5.

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