Afghanistan's Northern Alliance tightened its siege on the last Taliban bastion in the north, Kunduz, where fighters loyal to Osama bin Laden were preventing a Taliban surrender. Meanwhile, UN and US diplomats were trying to arrange a conference on neutral ground of Afghan factions to plan a post-Taliban government.

In related developments:

• The Pentagon said more US commandos were deployed in southern Afghanistan to hunt for bin Laden, and a few hundred Americans are on the ground throughout the country.

• Refugees said 300 Taliban fighters were shot by their own side as they tried to surrender.

• In Kabul, TV, banned for five years under the Taliban, resumed broadcasting.

• Japan pledged to send up to 1,500 troops, several warships, and a small squadron of planes within days to support the US-led war in Afghanistan.

Four Western journalists, including two Reuters reporters, ambushed in Afghanistan were likely dead, Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero said. They were stopped by armed men along a road between the eastern city of Jalalabad and Kabul, the capital. Gunfire was heard after they were taken from their cars. They were traveling in a convoy of up to eight cars in an area that recently came under control of opposition forces. (Story, page 7.)

The US accused Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Sudan, and possibly Iran and Syria of running germ warfare programs despite a 1972 international treaty banning biological weapons. Speaking in Geneva to 144 nations that back the treaty, Undersecretary for Arms Control John Bolton refused to say whether any may be helping Osama bin Laden attain such weapons.

Bulgaria's new Socialist president Georgi Parvanov pledged to work toward winning the country membership in the European Union and NATO, after incumbent president Petar Stoyanov conceded defeat in a close runoff election in which Parvanov (above) won 53.3 percent of the vote, initial results showed. The presidency is largely a ceremonial position, but the office carries veto power. Parvanov's win reflects a demand for change among Bulgarians after 12 years of economic hardship following the fall of communism.

Hundreds of former Muslim rebels staged an uprising on a southern Philippines island, reneging on a 1996 peace deal with the government. Disgruntled over aspects of the deal, rebels attacked an army camp. Four soldiers died and 27 others, including a colonel, were wounded; 51 rebels were killed.

Israeli tanks firing machine guns drove into Palestinian territory near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, witnesses said, a day after two Palestinian policemen were killed and a US private school damaged by Israeli tank fire.

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