The net tightened around Afghanistan's Taliban regime as Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, the opposition Northern Alliance claimed the capture of additional ground from Taliban forces and the defection of a field commander and some of his troops. But in Kabul, the capital, there were signs of returning residents, apparently convinced that their neighborhoods would not be targeted in a US military strike. (Related stories, pages 1, 7.)

New support for the US anti-terrorism fight came from China, which pledged to help choke off the money supply of the organization believed to be behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Beijing government also said it was reinforcing the units guarding its border with Afghanistan and called suggestions that Osama bin Laden had escaped into China "irresponsible."

Using ports of entry from Afghanistan's northern neighbors - and possibly Iran - the UN said it is resuming food shipments into the besieged country on a trial basis. The Taliban seized 1,400 tons of food from the UN Monday, and the agency estimates that stocks in wide areas will last less than a week without a resupply. The World Food Program (WFP) normally supplies about 3.8 million Afghans, plus 200,000 others in refugee camps in Pakistan and Iran. Above, an exhausted worker rests on sacks of wheat at a WFP warehouse in Peshawar, Pakistan.

The on-again, off-again meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is to take place today, the two sides said. The session, aimed at laying the groundwork for a lasting truce, is scheduled for the airport in Gaza City. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had demanded 48 hours of "absolute quiet" before permitting such a meeting. But although sporadic clashes were reported overnight in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank, no one had been killed since early Monday, and Peres said it was unrealistic "to reach a situation where there is no incident."

Even more weapons than expected have been collected from ethnic-Albanian insurgents in Macedonia, NATO's top official announced as alliance troops ended their disarmament mission a day early. But Secretary-General George Robertson would give no details on the follow-up mission that will try to maintain security in the still-tense country. Roberston said he'd now pressure Macedonia's parliament to reciprocate for the handover of weapons by OK'ing the legislation necessary to grant the insurgents amnesty.

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