With the tide of war in southern Iraq slowly turning, US and British military spokesmen reported growing cooperation by civilians who feel themselves liberated. They said local residents were offering details on the whereabouts of Iraqi paramilitary personnel, Baath Party members, weapons caches, and other intelligence. But fleeing residents of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, said the presence of secret police there remained "very strong."

In other war-related news:
• Aides to Saddam Hussein angrily denied that members of his family had fled Iraq, calling the suggestion - by Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke Monday - "a repeat of a lie."

• Alleged Iraqi plots to contaminate drinking water used by US troops and to bomb a hotel frequented by Americans in Amman, Jordan, were foiled by security agents there, reports said.

Regional defense officials were backing away from claims that North Korea had test-fired another guided missile, this one into the Yellow Sea. Such a test would have been the third this year. But soon after Japanese, South Korean, and US sources made the claim, the Tokyo and Seoul governments said they couldn't confirm it. North Korea called last week's launch of two Japanese spy satellites a "grave threat" that likely would provoke a new missile test.

The leaders of the main rebel movement and the government of Congo were keeping observers in suspense over whether they'll attend Wednesday's signing ceremony for the power-sharing deal aimed at ending 4-1/2 years of civil war. Neither Congolese Liberation Movement chief Jean-Pierre Bemba nor President Joseph Kabila have yet endorsed the accord, which would merge their forces and other rebel units into a new national army. Without their signatures, the deal would not be binding under Congolese law.

Some passengers were seen leaving a Cuban Airlines plane in Havana early Tuesday after a 12-hour ordeal in which government negotiators talked a hijacker apparently armed with hand grenades into freeing them unharmed. After refueling, the plane flew to Key West, Fla., under US military escort, reportedly with 31 others still aboard. The hijacking was the second in less than a month.

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