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Not only is the Bush administration opposed to a preemptive Israeli attack against Iran but it also has rejected requests for military hardware that could be used in one, reports said. Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel's Army Radio that the US position leaves only the option of "continu[ing] to act in the field of intelligence and to strengthen economic sanctions" against Iran's government. The Haaretz newspaper said the US has refused to sell offensive weapons to Israel but offered to upgrade its surface-to-surface missile defenses.

Terrorists exploded a powerful bomb at a heavily used bus stop in Tripoli, Lebanon, at rush hour Wednesday, killing 18 people and injuring 46 others. Most of the dead were soldiers. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although speculation centered on Al Qaeda-inspired militants who may have been seeking revenge for a military offensive last year against the nearby Nahr el-Bared refugee camp. The attack was the first of its type in Lebanon in months and the deadliest there in almost four years.

Mediator Thabo Mbeki returned home to South Africa Wednesday after failing to win an agreement on power-sharing by neighboring Zimbabwe's two leading political factions. Mbeki insisted a deal still is possible between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The official Herald newspaper, however, reported that Mugabe could not wait any longer and was preparing to form the next government with or without his rival.

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Despite repeated denials that unpopular Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will quit, a leading newspaper reported that he's expected to announce his resignation Thursday and then go into exile. The Daily Times of Lahore, citing an unidentified leader of a party allied with Musharraf, said the new ruling coalition would allow him safe passage provided he leaves office before impeachment proceedings begin. Coalition leaders appeared confident that the Army, which Musharraf headed until last year, wouldn't intervene on his behalf.

Police in Beijing quickly broke up a protest in support of Tibet less than a mile from the main stadium of the Olympic Summer Games. Within seconds, eight participants were arrested, all but one of them US citizens. A British reporter was thrown to the ground and briefly detained for taking pictures. Protests at the Olympics so far have been brief and small, and China's Foreign Ministry warned other would-be demonstrators to "abide by Chinese laws and regulations."

Government forces were sweeping 15 predominantly Christian villages in the southern Philip-pines for land mines and booby traps Wednesday after Muslim guerrillas "escaped," a military spokesman said. "I don't want to use the word 'withdrawn,' because [it] has a tinge of honor in it," he said. Tens of thousands of villagers who'd fled three days of combat between soldiers and militants of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front can return once any explosives have been cleared, the spokesman said.

Another crucial special election became necessary in Britain Wednesday after a member of Parliament from embattled Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour Party died in office. The late John MacDougall won his seat easily four years ago in the Scottish district of Glenrothes. But since then the rival Scottish Nationalist Party has soared in popularity while Labour's standing has plummeted. Brown's party has lost three straight special elections, most recently in the Glasgow East district last month.

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