Israel and the Palestinians appeared to be taking tentative steps toward a cease-fire as US envoy Anthony Zinni was joined in mediation efforts by Vice President Cheney. But Palestinians said none of their representatives would meet Cheney unless he first held talks with Yasser Arafat. Still, Israeli security sources said they'd hand back areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Monday night "if the Palestinians agree to take security control" over them. An Israeli pullback would meet one demand by the Palestinians for agreeing to a truce in the 18 months of violence.

Operation Anaconda in Afghan-istan was declared over by US Gen. Tommy Franks, who called it "an unqualified success." But he cautioned that other Al Qaeda and Taliban remnants could be regrouping "in various areas we've not yet found the location of." He chose not to address criticism of Anaconda by Afghan commanders that "most people escaped; you can't call that a success." (Story, page 6.)

A white farmer was shot to death, execution-style, in Zimbabwe, hours after President Robert Mugabe announced the distribution of land to black peasants would be accelerated in his new term. He was the 10th farmer to die at the hands of militant blacks since Mugabe's program of seizing white-owned property began two years ago. Reports said he was caught trying to escape a siege of his homestead after police did not respond to phone calls asking for help.

A high-level investigation was under way in Pakistan after Sunday's grenade attack on a Christian church service that killed five people, two of them Americans. Security around the diplomatic quarter in the capital, Islamabad, was increased, but one Western envoy said his colleagues still were bracing for more such incidents. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, the second of its type to date, but police theorized that an assailant himself died in the explosions.

Twenty-five asylum-seekers from North Korea arrived in Seoul, smiling and waving (above) at well-wishers four days after their ordeal began with a dash past police and into Spain's embassy in Beijing. The defections were the second in less than a year of North Koreans through China, which normally returns such people to the Pyongyang government. The group, reportedly the largest to defect since the Korean war, was allowed to travel to Seoul via the Philippines. (Related story, page 7.)

As expected, the right-leaning Social Democrats won a narrow victory in Portugal's election for a new parliament. But they fell short of an overall majority and appeared likely to seek a coalition with the conservative Popular Party, which finished third in Sunday's voting. The outcome made Portugal the third nation in Europe to veer right in its latest election, following Italy and Denmark.

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