The UN Security Council was preparing to debate the new resolution submitted by the US, Britain, and Spain, amid indications that a vote will be sought by the middle of next month. At least nine "yes" votes are needed, with no permanent member of the Council exercising its veto power. But against that backdrop, only Bulgaria is considered likely to back the resolution. Syria already has said it will vote "no," and China's government said it "doesn't see a need now" for a new resolution. A rival French-German proposal for extended UN weapons inspections in Iraq was dismissed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair as misguided.

Saddam Hussein and a senior adviser appeared to issue contradictory views on whether the Baghdad government will comply with UN orders to destroy its Al Samoud 2 missiles. Hussein, in a CBS-TV interview, suggested the demand would be ignored. But his adviser on weapons inspections said the order "is still being studied."

In an apparent bid to upstage the inauguration of new South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, rival North Korea test-fired a missile into the Sea of Japan and accused a US surveillance plane of intruding into its airspace. Secretary of State Powell, at the inauguration, called the missile incident "fairly innocuous," but senior Japanese officials predicted another test-firing would follow shortly. Roh's swearing-in was kept short out of respect for the victims of last week's subway fire in Taegu.

Upping the ante in its confrontation with the government of Colombia, the nation's largest Marxist rebel group said three US defense contractors in its custody are "prisoners of war" and will be freed only in exchange for the release from jails of 3,000 of its own members. The Bush administration has demanded their immediate return and authorized an expeditionary force to help search for them. A fourth American in the group reportedly was shot to death, execution-style. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said any handover must take place "in a wide demilitarized area."

Four people were hurt and property damage was extensive in the explosion of bombs outside the Spanish and Colombian diplomatic missions in Caracas, Venezuela. The blasts were related to each other, authorities said. Leaflets were found at the Spanish Embassy supporting leftist President Hugo Chávez, who earlier in the day accused Spain of siding with his political enemies. Chávez also threatened to break off relations with neighboring Colombia.

The America's Cup, yachting's most prestigious competition, was under a terrorism warning after authorities in New Zealand intercepted four envelopes containing cyanide crystals and white powder. The latter tested negative for anthrax. The mail was addressed to the US, British, and Australian diplomatic missions in Wellington, the capital, and to a leading daily newspaper. Letters in the envelopes threatened unspecified "actions" if Iraq was attacked during the event.

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