In a flurry of moves as it braced for a military attack by the US, Afghanistan's Taliban:

• seized 1,400 tons of food aid and the UN offices in Kandahar, its leadership base, imposed a communications blackout on all other UN operations, and threatened to execute any staffers who try to use the agency's facilities;

• announced it is mobilizing 300,000 men to help its armed forces;

• demanded that the US withdraw its forces from the Persian Gulf and end its "bias" against the Palestinians;

• said it has been unable to contact Osama bin Laden to inform him of last week's decision that he should leave Afghanistan voluntarily. (Related stories, pages 1, 6.)

Bin Laden, in a signed statement faxed to a satellite TV station in Qatar, urged Muslims in Pakistan to fight "crusader Americans." The statement, which a station executive said he considered authentic, called President Bush "the biggest crusader" in the "new Jewish crusader campaign." Pakistanis opposed to their government's support for a possible US strike against Afghanistan have staged sometimes-violent protests in Karachi, Peshawar, and other key cities. Below, Pakistani police stop and inspect a car near the Afghan border.

A Palestinian militant group claimed responsibility for the shooting death of an Israeli woman in a West Bank ambush, the second such attack in four days. Islamic Jihad said the incident showed "we are not concerned with what is called a cease-fire." But Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's office held Palestine Authority President Yasser Arafat responsible and said the attack would again delay the long-awaited meeting between him and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Israel also set up a 20-mile-long buffer zone in the West Bank to keep would-be suicide bombers at bay, a move Palestinians called "racist."

In a toughly worded warning, the leader of Northern Ireland's dominant Catholic political party said the Irish Republican Army is "not going to bend" to demands that it surrender its weapons. Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, the IRA's political ally, also said the possibility of the IRA putting its secretly stored arsenal beyond use was "made much more difficult" by Britain's latest suspension of the Protestant/Catholic power-sharing government Saturday. He spoke as the province's major Protestant party offered a motion to expel Sinn Fein's two ministers from the government.

Voters gave the formerly communist Democratic Left Alliance a clear victory in Poland's election for a new parliament, but not by enough of a margin to govern alone, preliminary results showed. The alliance appeared likely to fall as many as 12 seats short of a majority after Sunday's vote, necessitating a coalition-building effort. The once-popular Solidarity-led government, however, seemed unlikely to retain a single seat.

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