World

Sawing through a barricaded metal door, Israeli police then dragged dozens of Jewish squatters from an abandoned Palestinian residence in the volatile West Bank city of Hebron Sunday. Nineteen police were hurt and 17 settlers were arrested in the incident, which was seen as a test of new Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's controversial plan to clear much of the West Bank of Jewish settlements as his predecessor, Ariel Sharon, did last year with the Gaza Strip. Hebron's 500 Jewish residents live in heavily fortified enclaves, compared with roughly 160,000 Palestinians.

Israeli intelligence tipped off Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to a plot by Hamas to assassinate him, The Sunday Times (London) reported. Citing unidentified sources, it said the plot, which also was to have targeted his security chief in Gaza, probably was the work of the Hamas military wing and was not ordered by Prime Minister Ismail Hani-yeh. Acting on the tip, Abbas canceled a planned trip to Gaza, the report said. Hamas has complained that Abbas stripped its fledgling, cash-poor government of many of its powers. It also has refused his requests that it soften its stance against Israel.

Despite overhauling his government in the wake of a severe beating at the polls last week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair faced new political problems Sunday. Rebellious members of the ruling Labour Party were circulating a draft letter to him, demanding that he announce when he plans to step down. Blair has said he'll serve the full four years of the term he won last May but will not seek a fourth term. In local elections across Britain, Labour finished in third place, far behind the rival Conservatives. Results of a survey of 100 Labour members of Parliament Sunday showed half wanted Blair to quit. Questions about his future are considered certain to dominate Monday when he holds his monthly news conference.

A new effort to bring representatives of Sri Lanka's government and Tamil separatist rebels together for peace talks appeared headed for an uncertain outcome after the latter denied access to their leader. Yasushi Akashi, a Japanese diplomat who has made 12 previous trips to Sri Lanka, is to meet with President Mahinda Rajapakse and opposition leaders Monday to discuss avoiding a return to full civil war. But he was refused talks with rebel chief Velupillai Prabhakaran. Instead, the rebels offered a get-together with the head of their political wing. Japan is Sri Lanka's largest donor of aid.

Although he appears almost certain to be reelected to a six-year term, controversial President Hugo Chávez vowed to schedule a separate referendum asking Venezuelans whether they want him to remain in office for the next quarter-century. But in a speech to supporters late Friday, he appeared to make the issue contingent on whether opposition parties boycott the Dec. 3 vote. The Constitution allows a president to succeed himself once, meaning that if Chávez wins, he couldn't legally run again after 2012.

Rescuers were using small explosive charges Sunday to try to clear away the last 15 feet of rock and reach two trapped gold miners in the Australian state of Tasmania. Officials at the Beaconsfield mine called conditions in 86-degree F. heat "incredibly difficult," since the remaining rock is "five times harder than concrete." The survivors of a small earthquake that collapsed the shaft in which they were working have been underground since April 25. They have been provided with food and clean water via a pipe forced through the rubble.

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