Iraq's neighbors will find "harmful consequences" if they stand by while the US attempts to topple Saddam Hussein, an influential Baghdad newspaper warned. Babel singled out Turkey and Iran but accused unnamed others of "submitting shamefully" to the US. Its warning came as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told the BBC that the US has no choice but to seek a regime change in Iraq, accusing Hussein of twice coming close to acquiring nuclear weapons.

Israeli tanks pulled back from Yasser Arafat's West Bank headquarters for the first time in two months, and Defense Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer prepared to meet with a senior Palestinian official to discuss a wider withdrawal. The Palestinians also announced that Arafat had OK'd a new investment fund aimed at ensuring accountability in his authority's financial dealings. Looming over those developments, however, was the threat of new reprisals for Israel's killing of a senior Hamas leader, Nasser Jerar, in the West Bank town of Tubas.

Amid intense security, Indians celebrated their 55th anniversary of independence on a note of belligerency against rival Pakistan. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee warned the latter against trying to disrupt next month's election in Kashmir, calling the disputed state "an integral part of India" that "will remain so." Observing Pakistan's own Independence Day, President Pervez Musharraf said the Kashmir vote is "another effort to give a mask of legitimacy" to India's "illegal occupation."

Human-rights organizations blasted as "absurd" the acquittals of East Timor's last police commander and five subordinates for alleged abuses when the former Indonesian province voted for independence in 1999. Two courts ruled there was no proof that the defendants had conspired with pro-Indonesia gangs who murdered hundreds of Timorese. The decisions came one day after the province's last governor was convicted of rights violations.

A street protest turned violent in Venezuela's capital after the Supreme Court threw out charges against four army officers accused of directing the April coup against President Hugo Chávez. The ruling angered Chávez supporters, thousands of whom pelted security forces with rocks and bottles, set fire to tires, and blocked major streets. Three people were hurt as police responded with plastic bullets and tear gas.

In "a show of repudiation," Mexican President Vicente Fox canceled a visit later this month to Texas to protest the state's execution of a Mexican national. Javier Suarez Medina confessed to the 1988 shooting of a Dallas policeman. But Fox had asked that the sentence be commuted to life imprisonment on grounds that Suarez was denied access to the advice of Mexican consular officials.

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