A vote was expected as soon as Tuesday in the UN Security Council on a new resolution that would set a March 17 deadline for Iraqi disarmament. But its prospects appeared uncertain at best. Russia hinted at the use of a veto and said it would do whatever else it could to block the resolution. France, which also has a veto, sent its foreign minister to try to win the votes of African nations on the Council, and President Jacques Chirac appealed for an emergency summit of all Council nations to search for a compromise that would keep weapons inspections going and avert war.

Ratcheting up tensions with the US still further, North Korea's government rejected American efforts to organize multilateral discussions over its nuclear weapons program and accused the Bush administration of planning preemptive attacks against its military bases. But there was still no sign of the widely expected test-firing of another North Korean missile into the Sea of Japan, which neighboring governments predicted could take place over the weekend.

Israel and Hamas were in all but open war after rocket fire from a helicopter killed one of the latter's founders as he traveled in the Gaza Strip. The attack early Saturday, the latest in Israel's three-week-old offensive against the radical organization, also killed three of Ibrahim Makadmeh's bodyguards, and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said the campaign would continue. Another Hamas founder was arrested early last week. A spokesman for the group said it would seek to avenge Makadmeh's death by assassinating senior Israeli politicians.

Yasser Arafat formally nominated his deputy for the new post of Palestinian prime minister. But in asking the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization to approve Mahmoud Abbas, he did not spell out what powers would go with the job or indicate when he wanted it to go into effect. For his part, Abbas did not immediately accept the post, saying he first wanted to learn what powers he would have. Abbas, who is regarded as a moderate, also is known as Abu Mazen.

Victory - and ultimately the prime ministership of Turkey - appeared all but certain for ruling party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan as voters went to the polls Sunday in a by-election for seats in parliament. Erdogan was denied the prime ministership when his Justice and Development Party (AKP) won last November's general election because he'd once been convicted of inciting religious hatred. But he remained the power behind the scenes as colleague Abdullah Gul assumed the post, and AKP lawmakers voted to change the Constitution.

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