Intense discussions were under way between Northern Ireland Catholic leaders and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to try to salvage the province's power-sharing government. Blair also was to meet with his Irish Republic counterpart, Bertie Ahern, under a deadline set by Protestants to quit the self-rule administration if Sinn Fein, the political party of the Irish Republican Army, isn't expelled. In his meeting with Blair Tuesday, Northern Ireland's Protestant First Minister, David Trimble, said his forces would leave the government next Tuesday.

Almost 72 million people are registered to vote Thursday in Pakistan's first general election since the Gen. Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999. But they take place amid widespread cynicism, with critics saying they will fail in their stated purpose: starting the nation on the road back to democracy.

The hope of an American terrorist suspect for political asylum in Malaysia was dashed by the latter's High Court. It ruled that Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal had no right to appeal a deportation order to the US, where prosecutors have charged him with conspiracy to aid Al Qaeda. Government officials refused to specify when Bilal would be put on a plane, however.

Under cover of darkness, Army tanks were sent to guard Mira-flores Palace and other key government buildings in Venezuela's capital, where a protest march organized by political opponents of President Hugo Chávez is scheduled for today. At the same time, the city was awash in rumors of a military coup that Chávez himself fed with a claim last weekend that his government had uncovered a plot to kill him. The home of a colonel accused in the plot was raided Tuesday by intelligence agents over the protests of neighbors and friends.

Eight former communist bloc states and the ethnically troubled island of Cyprus were formally recommended for membership in the European Union by its executive commission. The panel said both halves of the former Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, the ex-Yugo-slav republic of Slovenia, and the Baltic states (Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia) should be admitted in 2004, along with the Mediterranean island of Malta. But it said Turkey, which has sought membership since 1999, still must meet EU political and economic criteria and has yet to fully improve its human-rights record.

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