Macedonia's rival parties pledged to sign a peace deal next week, European Union envoy Francois Leotard said, as diplomats pressed the parties to finalize an agreement that would avert a civil war in the Balkan country. Sources said leaders on both sides were initialing the deal one by one, and all had agreed to the document. Leotard's announcement came as talks took on a new urgency after 10 Macedonian soldiers were killed in the worst battle yet during six months of insurgency. Ethnic Albanian rebels struck a convoy carrying soldiers near the capital, Skopje.

Weeks after the Group of Eight summit in Genoa, Italy's chief of police acknowledged that excessive force was used by some officers against protesters. Chief Gianni De Gennaro has launched an investigation and said he'll take disciplinary action against any "unlawful behavior." Italian police were unable to quell riots during the G-8 meeting, in which an antiglobalization protester died, more than 200 were injured, and 300 people were arrested. Protesters from Britain, France, Germany, and the US have claimed they were beaten by police, denied food, and denied access to their consulates after arrests.

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, which is holding 24 aid workers on charges of trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, said they have seized the group's religious materials and had previously warned them to stop religious activities. However, a spokesman for the German-based relief agency, Shelter Now International, insisted the materials were for personal use. The group, which includes Germans, Americans, Australians, and Afghans, was arrested Aug. 5 on charges of promoting Christianity, punishable by death under the hardline Islamic Taliban regime.

President Saddam Hussein warned the US against continuing to fly warplanes over Iraq, and affirmed Baghdad's right to upgrade its air-defense systems. Saddam's comments came after US fighter jets struck an air-defense site in northern Iraq when they were threatened with Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery. President Bush defended US bombing strikes as a necessary response to Iraqi provocations in no-fly zones, established after the 1991 Gulf War.

President Andres Pastrana suspended peace talks with Colombia's second-biggest rebel group, dimming hopes for an end to the country's 37-year civil war. The announcement came as representatives of the leftist rebel National Liberation Army and Colombian officials were meeting in neighboring Venezuela. Pastrana, (above, leaving a military ceremony in Bogotá) said ELN officials made new demands and rejected a series of government proposals.

In the latest burst of Mideast violence, a Palestinian suicide bomber in a car blew himself up at an Israeli army checkpoint, destroying the outpost, while Israeli helicopters launched two missile raids on Palestinian security outposts. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, visiting Turkey, reasserted he would not revive peace talks with Palestinians until 10 months of violence ends.

At least 23 textile workers were killed in Bangladesh and nearly 100 were injured in a stampede when a false fire alarm caused them to flee their factory building, police officers said. The workers, mostly women, panicked and scrambled down the building's staircase after an electric short circuit set off a fire alarm.

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