After confidants said he probably wouldn't, ex-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared ready to accept the nation's foreign ministry portfolio. But his decision was conditional on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon calling a new national election earlier than next October, when parliament's term expires. Netanyahu's acceptance would help Sharon forge a right-wing coalition government after last week's pullout by the opposition Labor Party. But he and Sharon are certain rivals for leadership of the Likud Party in the next election.

A series of unexpected breakthroughs emerged from the second round of peace negotiations between the government of Sri Lanka and Tamil rebel negotiators that, among other features, includes an agreement to discuss power-sharing. Meeting in neutral Thailand, the Tamils said they wish to participate in democracy and would allow other political parties into areas of the island nation that they control. Still, mediators cautioned that a permanent peace still could be years away.

A helicopter carrying nine soldiers was shot down outside Chechnya's capital as the Russian Defense Ministry announced it was canceling a planned troop withdrawal and had launched a broad new offensive against separatist guerillas. Everyone aboard the helicopter was confirmed dead. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov had said "excess" Russian troops would be out of the troubled province by year's end. But that was before last month's hostage ordeal in a Moscow theater caused by Chechen commandos that resulted in 119 civilian deaths.

Two suspected Muslim militants were shot dead by police in a crowded New Delhi mall they were targeting on India's busiest shopping weekend of the year. Authorities said they'd been tipped off that militants would try an attack in such areas during Diwali, the festival of light. A policeman was wounded in the incident; no shoppers were hurt. It followed a grenade attack Saturday in Kashmir as the disputed state's new chief minister was about to take his oath of office. He wasn't hurt, but 26 others died in violence across the state during the day.

The release from prison of two notorious members of Colombia's CalĂ­ cocaine cartel was blocked by new President Alvaro Uribe after a court ordered them freed for good behavior. Brothers Miguel and Gilberto Rodiguez Orejuela have served less than half their terms since their 1995 convictions for trafficking to the US. Uribe said the order "cannot be accepted automatically" until there is an investigation into its legitimacy.

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