Iraq's surprise offer to readmit weapons inspectors unconditionally was not yet on the agenda of the UN Security Council as it prepared to meet Tuesday. But it already was having wide-ranging ramifications:

• The council appeared split over the offer, with the US heaping scorn on it, and Britain warning against allowing the Baghdad government to "make a monkey of the rest of the world." But Russia backed Iraq's contention that the offer eliminated all the reasons for a US attack. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov also said a new Security Council resolution on Iraq was no longer necessary.

• The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency said its inspectors could resume a comprehensive search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction "tomorrow" with the Security Council's go-ahead.

• Oil prices on world markets went into an immediate slide, and industry analysts predicted that a meeting of OPEC, beginning tomorrow, would result in no relaxation of production cuts.

• In London, an Arab League official said inspectors would be limited to military bases and could not check hospitals or other suspected civilian weapons-development sites.

One of the Al Qaeda militants arrested last week in a police raid in Karachi, Pakistan, participated in the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, police there said. The suspect wasn't identified by name and was not among five men handed over to US authorities after their capture. If the allegation proves true, it would be the first evidence of Al Qaeda involvement in Pearl's abduction and death. It was not clear how the new report might affect the Pakistani government's case against four militants convicted in July of Pearl's death.

In a rare act of contrition, North Korea's leader apologized for the kidnapping of 11 Japanese nationals in the 1970s and '80s. The motive: to learn the victims' language and assume their identities, Kim Jong Il told visiting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Those involved were punished, Kim said. Their meeting resulted in an agreement to resume negotiations on establishing diplomatic relations.

An antigovernment rally in Paraguay's capital turned violent late Monday, with police firing rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannon at thousands of people calling for President Luis Gonzalez Maachi's resignation. At least 40 protesters were hurt; 250 others were arrested. Many Paraguayans worry that the financial crises in neighboring Argentina and Uruguay will worsen their nation's already impoverished condition.

A jealous snack-shop owner in eastern China was arrested and has confessed to spiking a rival's popular breakfast treats with rat poison, official news agencies said. Conflicting reports put the number of deaths in Nanjing from eating the tainted sesame cakes, fried dough sticks, and other products at between 38 and more than 100. Hundreds of other people remain hospitalized.

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