After nine days and nights of hard bargaining, delegates to the conference on Afghanistan's future signed a historic power-sharing deal to form a post-Taliban government. The new interim administration, to be headed by Pashtun tribal leader and former deputy Afghan foreign minister Hamid Karzai, is to rule for six months, beginning Dec. 22. After that, plans call for it to give way to a traditional council of elders - in opening ceremonies led by exiled King Zahir Shah - whose task will be to appoint a transitional government. (Story, page 1.)

The caves and tunnels suspected of being the hideouts of Osama bin Laden and his closest supporters were under relentless attack by US warplanes and the tanks and rockets of anti-Taliban forces in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan. And, at Kandahar, the city's Taliban defenders reportedly were seeking guarantees of safety if they surrendered. But the assault on Kandahar killed three US soldiers and wounded 20 others when a bomb dropped from a B-52 missed its target, the Pentagon confirmed. (Stories, pages 1, 6; related opinions, page 9.)

A Palestinian suicide bomber killed only himself when the device strapped to his body exploded prematurely outside a Jerusalem hotel where senior Israeli officials were meeting. Three Israelis nearby were slightly hurt. The militant organization Islamic Jihad said the attacker was one of its members and vowed there would be more "very painful responses to follow." The incident occurred as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat insisted he needed more time to arrest militants, which the US and Israel are demanding. (Stories, pages 1, 2.)

Amid the violence, senior members of Israel's Labor Party were meeting to discuss withdrawing from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's national unity government. Influential Labor members are unhappy at the government's decision to label Arafat's Palestinian Authority a "terror-supporting entity" and have said they do not wish to be part of an effort to topple it. A Labor pullout, led by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, however, still would leave Sharon with a narrow majority in parliament.

A nationwide curfew was imposed in Sri Lanka as officials began the count of ballots from Wednesday's violence-marred parliamentary election. In addition, all public demonstrations, including parades, were banned for a week to lessen the likelihood of more trouble. At least four deaths were reported during the balloting, raising the number of casualties since campaigning opened Oct. 21 to 50.

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