The US has not asked for permission "regarding a military action against Iraq," the foreign minister of neighboring Qatar told journalists on arriving for talks with senior leaders of the Baghdad government. The US maintains three bases in the small oil-producing state, among them al-Udeid, to which it has been moving vast quantities of warmaking materiel in recent months. Al-Udeid is widely seen as a likely staging base for a US attack. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani said Qatar opposes "any military action." but that he would urge Iraqi officials to allow UN weapons inspectors to return there.

Two more Hamas leaders were arrested in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers, as the Jewish state made further progress in depleting the radical group's senior ranks. Jamal Abdel Salam abu el-Hayja, Hamas's political chief in Jenin and Islam Jarrar, his deputy, were discovered in a house-to-house search. Their capture brought to at least four the number of Hamas leaders seized this month. Two others have been killed in raids since July 22.

It is time for the "savage principle of survival of the fittest" to be set aside as "unsustainable," South African President Thabo Mbeki told the opening session of the UN's Earth Summit in Johannesburg. Speaking to delegates from almost 200 countries, he blasted what he called the failure of many governments to act on pledges made at the last such conference a decade ago to pursue prosperity in environmentally friendly ways. The summit is supposed to produce an action plan for world leaders to sign next week. But it would not be legally binding, and US President Bush already has indicated he won't attend.

In a 375-page order, the political party affiliated with Spain's Basque separatist movement, ETA, was suspended for at least three years. The ruling by a judge known as a crusader against terrorism allows local and regional elected representatives of Herri Batasuna to serve out their terms, however. As Judge Baltasar Garzon was issuing his decision, parliament opened a special session to consider the government's call for a Supreme Court ruling that would outlaw the party.

Quickie polls taken immediately after Sunday night's historic first TV debate in Germany between the rivals for chancellor in next month's election showed it ended in a draw. Incumbent Gerhard Schröder, analysts said, appeared tense and displayed none of his trademark wit against media-shy, but unexpectedly aggressive conservative challenger Edmund Stoiber.

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