A four-hour inspection of Saddam Hussein's main presidential palace in Baghdad was conducted by UN searchers, although the newspaper owned by his eldest son said in a front-page editorial that some Iraqis "can no longer tolerate the sight" of them. It was not clear whether the Iraqi president was in residence at the time. Meanwhile, the US formally asked its NATO allies for six types of help in the event of an attack on Iraq. Most of the assistance is believed to be in the form of defensive measures, such as protecting Turkey, a likely base for airstrikes. (Related story, page 1; related editorial, page 8.)

In scornful terms, North Korea's government rejected a Bush administration offer of dialogue - and possibly resumed US aid - in exchange for abandoning its nuclear weapons program. An official statement called the proposal "loudmouthed," "deceptive," and "pie in the sky." But the communist regime in Pyongyang agreed to hold four days of Cabinet-level discussions with South Korean officials beginning Tuesday on nuclear issues.

If the Supreme Court should rule that Venezuela deserves a Feb. 2 referendum on the controversial rule of President Hugo Chávez, the decision would be respected, his top aide said. But Vice President José Vicente Rangel warned that such a ruling would cause chaos, with the nation already struggling to cope with the effects of a six-week general strike. Last November, Chávez opponents presented petitions bearing 2 million signatures that call for such a vote - more than enough as required by law. But a referendum would cost an estimated $22 million, which Chávez has said he won't make available unless the high court rules in the affirmative.

Police and senior government administrators in Britain were fending off harsh criticism after one unarmed officer was fatally stabbed and four others were hurt in a raid on an apartment used by suspected terrorists of North African descent. The victims had been sent to search the dwelling in Manchester in the wake of the recent discovery of quantities of a poison linked to the Al Qaeda network. No traces of "dangerous material" were found in the raid, and the suspects were in custody.

Two leaders of last year's protests by laid-off workers in a "rust belt" city in northeastern China went on trial for subversion - a crime whose maximum penalty is death if they should be found guilty. The protests in Liaoyang in March attracted thousands of angry people who complained of unpaid wages and other compensation they'd been promised when their inefficient state-run factory closed.

The first two rounds of voting in parliament for a new president to succeed the retiring Vaclav Havel in the Czech Republic failed to produce a winner. Havel, already internationally famous as a playwright before turning to politics, is ineligible for a third term and will leave office Feb. 2. In a farewell appearance before legislators, he said: "Some things I did probably were a success; I probably messed some [other] things up."

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