Vice President Cheney's speech Monday, laying out the US case for preemptive action against Iraq, "only expresses the depth of [American] hatred for Arab and Muslim nations, his counterpart in the Baghdad government said. Taha Yassin Rama-dan told journalists on a visit to Syria that Iraq "could not care less about the threats." Yet:

• Ramadan also called on UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to set a date for "a new round of talks" on returning weapons inspectors to Iraq. However, he said such a return would be futile if the US intended to attack.

• President Saddam Hussein said the threat of a US attack is "aimed not only at Iraq but at the entire Arab world." Iraq, he argued, had fulfilled all its commitments under UN resolutions in place since the 1991 Gulf War. But he repeated complaints that Iraqi "independence and sovereignty" were not being respected in return.

• Foreign Minister Naji Sabri was in Beijing, urging more than symbolic Chinese opposition to a prospective US attack.

Restrictions on Palestinians entering Israel from Bethlehem will be relaxed after "relative quiet" takes hold in the West Bank city, the army said. Under the joint security deal worked out with Palestinians earlier this month, Israel has stopped military operations in Bethlehem, although its forces remain on the outskirts. Meanwhile, concern grew about a possible "fifth column" among Israeli Arab citizens after the arrest of seven members of the same family for alleged involvement in the Aug. 4 bombing of a bus that killed nine people and hurt dozens of others.

Despite encountering human barricades outside, police in Spain moved quickly to seize offices of the radical Basque political party Batasuna after a court ordered it suspended for three years. The party denies it is affiliated with the militant separatist group ETA, but it is alone among political movements in the country in not condemning ETA violence. Reports said the government's request – OK'd by parliament 295-to-10 – to outlaw Batasuna likely will be presented to the Supreme Court Friday.

Saying, "There is no problem we can't resolve if we join forces," a North Korean representative led his government's delegation into four days of talks on economic cooperation with South Korean officials in Seoul. The discussions are to center on building a cross-border railway and an industrial park in the depressed North.

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