Israel will participate in no further peace negotiations until the Palestinian Authority undertakes "basic [internal] reforms in all areas," including social and economic, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told parliament. "Only then," he said, "will we be able to sign a permanent peace." In an address interrupted by heckling from Arab legislators, Sharon called the organization led by Yasser Arafat "corrupt and dictatorial." He did not bring up the matter of Palestinian statehood, which was rejected for all time by his own Likud Party in a resolution earlier this week.

A major diplomatic row was gathering steam between Japan and China over the latter's refusal to hand over five asylum-seekers dragged by police from a consulate in the city of Shenyang last week. TV footage of the incident has angered many Japanese, and their government has demanded an apology. Chinese officials said the five – among them a toddler – will be sent home to their native North Korea and that "the Japanese side [must] correct its attitude." China has allowed previous asylum-seekers to go to South Korea, among them two people who sought refuge in the US consulate in Shenyang. The case of three others who made it to Canada's embassy in Beijing "has been appropriately solved," Chinese officials said, without giving details.

A 10-year, $12 billion project to halt the spread of deserts that threaten China's economic boom was announced by the Beijing government, which called it the largest such effort in history. Officials said 170,000 square miles would be planted in trees. Only 16 percent of China remains forested, although that total includes fruit orchards. Vast areas have been logged to meet the demand for timber to help grow the economy, which has contributed to droughts, flooding, erosion, and other ecological damage.

Before dawn, long lines of people were gathering at polling places in Sierra Leone for the nation's first elections since 10 years of civil war ended. Some, whose hands were amputated by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels for voting in the 1996 presidential election won by Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, cast ballots by stamping them with ink applied to their toes. Kabbah is expected to win a second term, although some of his opponents attracted huge crowds to their campaign rallies. The RUF, now transformed into a political party, was participating in the election. Above, a double amputee casts his ballot in Freetown, the capital.

CORRECTION An item in this space Tuesday carried the wrong date for the national election in The Netherlands. The voting will be held today.

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