US military commanders acknowledged that they are considering the setting up of a commando base inside Afghan-istan to better support the opposition forces fighting the Taliban regime. The admission came as bombers concentrated Monday on an area known as a hideout for Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization. Meanwhile, in a new propaganda blitz, Taliban leaders claimed the arrest of an unspecified number of Americans, suggesting they had accompanied resistance hero Abdul Haq, who was captured and executed late last week. They also accused the US of using bombs with "radioactive rays and chemical materials that cause cancer." (Related story, page 1.)

Legislation that would allow Japanese troops and naval units to join the global counterterrorism effort won unusually quick approval in parliament. But the measure, introduced less than a month ago, will restrict the military to noncombat roles such as transporting weapons and ammunition and guarding US bases on Japanese soil. Analysts said it reflects Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's desire to avoid the criticism aimed at Japan during the 1991 Gulf War for supplying only cash to support the US-led coalition fighting Iraq.

Despite a new spate of anti-Israel violence, the Jewish state pulled its troops back from the sectors of Bethlehem reoccupied after the assassination earlier this month of Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. And Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held out the prospect of further pullbacks in four other Palestinian-controlled West Bank towns if there was "a continuation of calm in the Bethlehem region." But at the same time, he postponed visits to Britain and the US because of the security situation. And an Israeli officer alleged that Yasser Arafat had held daily discussions with two Palestinian gunmen who fired on a bus stop Sunday, killing five people. Above, a tank crosses into Israeli territory between Bethlehem and Jeru-salem. (Related story, page 6.)

A UN war-crimes tribunal judge ordered Slobodan Milosevic to be silent and entered a not-guilty plea in his behalf as the ex-Yugoslav president for the third time in four months demonstrated his defiance of the court's authority. Milosevic was attending the hearing in The Hague so he could hear an amended indictment against him for alleged offenses by Serb forces in Kosovo in 1999 and in Croatia between 1991 and 1995. The most serious charges against him - for alleged genocide in Bosnia - are expected to be filed as soon as next week.

Police guards in plain clothes intercepted a suicide bomber in Sri Lanka apparently intent on assassinating the prime minister. But before he could be stopped, the would-be attacker set off the explosives strapped to his body, killing himself and three others. The blast also wounded at least 18 people. Government chief Ratnasiri Wickramanayake was unhurt. Wickramanayake also is serving as acting president since Chandrika Kumaratunga, herself injured in a 1999 suicide-bomb attack, is on an overseas trip.

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