Whether Osama bin Laden is to be handed over to the US will be decided today by a council of Islamic clerics, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban said. The announcement came as a delegation sent by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf tried to convince the Taliban of the likelihood of a powerful US military attack if the accused terrorism-financier is not surrendered. Meanwhile, the Taliban closed Afghanistan's air space and deployed Scud missiles and an estimated 25,000 soldiers along the border with Pakistan, reports said. (Stories, pages 1, 7.)

Mainstream political movements in Pakistan offered qualified backing for the government's decision to help the US against Afghanistan. But angry members of the 35 Islamic parties that make up the Council for the Defense of Afghanistan and Pakistan staged demonstrations in Karachi, Lahore, and other cities, and called for a nationwide general strike and protest Friday after prayer services. At least 24 people were arrested in Karachi, even though it was the scene of Monday's smallest demonstration. (Story, page 1.) Above, a Taliban supporter sells posters of bin Laden on a Karachi street.

Yasser Arafat complained to President Bush about Israel's decision to establish a buffer zone in the West Bank to try to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers. Plans call for the zone to take effect next Monday but won't involve displacing any Palestinians from their homes, Israeli sources said. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he saw no evidence that Palestinians were respecting Arafat's "strict orders for a total cease-fire." Armed guards were posted at every synagogue as the two-day Jewish New Year approached.

By a 2-to-1 vote, the Federal Court in Australia overturned a judge's ruling that the government illegally had refused asylum to 433 immigrants rescued from a sinking ferry earlier this month. The majority said Prime Minister John Howard's administration acted within its constitutional powers to prevent the mostly Afghan refugees from landing on Australian soil. Their freedom, the court ruled, had not been restricted.

A pivotal figure in the effort to bring lasting peace to Northern Ireland said he'll give up his leadership of the province's moderate Catholic political party in November. John Hume won a share of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize for helping to shape the accord under which a Protestant/Catholic coalition government assumed administrative powers. Hume cited health reasons for stepping down as head of the Social Democratic and Labour Party.

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