For the first time, Afghanistan's Taliban regime conceded that Osama bin Laden could have been involved in last week's terrorism attacks against the US and said it was ready for new discussions with the Bush administration. But as a grand council of Islamic elders postponed its decision for yet another day on whether to recommend that bin Laden be extradited, Taliban chief Mullah Muhamad Omar demanded "evidence" of his involvement in the attacks. He said Afghan-istan's "enemies" were using bin Laden as an excuse to attack the impoverished country. (Related stories, pages 1, 2, 5; related editorial, page 8; related opinions, page 9.)

With internal opposition growing to Pakistan's cooperation in any US payback for the terrorist attacks, military President Pervez Musharraf explained his position in a televised address to the nation. A new Gallup opinion poll found 62 percent of respondents favoring neighboring Afghanistan's Taliban regime over the US. In addition, a coalition of 35 Islamic political parties would obey the Taliban's call for a religious war against the US, their chairman said. And Afghans in a refugee camp on the Pakistani side of the border urged the Taliban not to surrender bin Laden. Above, pro-Taliban Islamic groups stage another in a series of mass protests in Karachi.

Despite a rejection by Palestinian militants, the cease-fire ordered by Yasser Arafat appeared to be holding. Palestin- ian police patrolled West Bank and Gaza Strip flashpoints to discourage new violence, however, as Hamas and Islamic Jihad said "no force" could stop their resistance. For its part, Israel ordered Army units to withdraw from Palestinian-held territory. Still, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said through a spokesman that Arafat and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres would not meet until there was calm for 48 hours.

Curious residents turned out to watch as the first 100 would-be asylum-seekers rejected by Australia trudged off a Navy ship en route to a makeshift refugee compound on the Pacific island nation of Nauru. Another 333 were to follow, although New Zealand has pledged to accept 150 from the overall group. Meanwhile, a respected public opinion poll showed support for Australian Prime Minister John Howard soaring to a level high enough to win the national election expected to be held in November. For months, Howard's Liberal/National party coalition was considered ripe for defeat.

A massive $13 million testing program was announced by Japan's Health Ministry to check for signs of so-called "mad cow" disease in beef cattle. The inspection, modeled on measures taken in Europe, is an attempt to stop a nationwide outbreak after a cow was found to be infected earlier this month. Bone meal also was banned as a feed for the nation's cattle herd.

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