Iraqi President Saddam Hussein warned his generals against treason, "the most extreme state of weakness in man," as indications grew that war with US-led forces was drawing nearer. And the New York Post said it had learned that Hussein also ordered death certificates be sent to the families of Iraqi scientists, which it said were to be a warning against providing assistance to UN weapons inspectors. The reports came amid international reaction to Monday's report on Iraqi disarmament by chief UN inspector Hans Blix. Using the British government's strongest terms to date, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Iraq would make "the most profound mistake if it thought it could go on with its game-playing any longer."

The heaviest fighting in 10 months was raging in the mountains of southeastern Afghanistan, where US Special Forces, airborne troops, and government militiamen had dozens of rebels pinned down. Allied bombers were pounding caves in which the followers of renegade leader Gulbuddin Hekmatayar were hiding. Military spokesmen said at least 18 rebels had been killed, with no US or allied casualties.

Not even a statement characterizing their five days of talks on ending terrorist attacks against Israelis could be agreed to by representatives of 12 Palestinian militant groups as they left Cairo for home. Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Fatah, and the others had been considering Egyptian proposals for a truce and for a unified Palestinian leadership that could formulate strategy "for the struggle against Israel."

The US Embassy in Ivory Coast closed as a precaution when thousands of protesters gathered in front of it to seek American condemnation of the controversial peace accord that they say gives too much power to dissident Army troops. But the US already has signaled its support for the French-brokered agreement. President Laurent Gbagbo has called the terms of the deal "propositions" and has pledged to "ask the people" for their OK.

Strike organizers were discussing whether to OK the reopening of shopping malls, restaurants, schools, and other institutions in Venezuela amid signs that support for the two-month nationwide walkout is waning. The opponents of leftist President Hugo Chávez also worried that continuing the strikes could backfire, with growing public discontent undermining the goal of removing him from office. Meanwhile, production of crude, the No. 1 source of revenue, was back up to 966,000 barrels a day from its low of 150,000, although strike leaders vowed to continue the oil-industry stoppage.

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