By the end of next week, Iraq's new "governmental process" will be "up and running," the US official charged with rebuilding the country said. Jay Garner told a news conference that all ministries will be headed by Iraqis. Toward that end, he met with scores of technocrats and academicians Thursday to discuss his responsibilities, and the second conference of political interest groups was scheduled for Monday in Baghdad. Meanwhile, US experts working on returning Iraq's oil industry to full production said pumping from northern wells would begin "in the next day or two." Some southern oil fields resumed production Wednesday.

A Palestinian terrorist bomber killed himself and a railroad station guard and wounded 13 others in the central Israel town of Kfar Saba. Responsibility was quickly claimed by a faction of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, which, analysts said, suggested a direct challenge to the authority of Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas appeared to win a showdown with Arafat Wednesday over the makeup of his cabinet, and an invitation to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon awaits only a vote of confidence in the cabinet by the Palestinian Legislative Council. Most Palestinian militants have denounced the cabinet.

No one was being allowed to enter or leave one of Beijing's largest hospitals after the government ordered it sealed off as a new precaution against the spreading SARS virus. Beijing already has reported more than 700 cases and 39 deaths, almost one-third of the national total. Worldwide, the number of fatalities stood at 262.

Twenty opposition parties in Nigeria demanded that newly reelected President Olusegun Obasanjo resign by May 29 and allow a new vote for the office. Otherwise, they warned of a "massive revolt" in Africa's most populous nation. Despite widespread alleged fraud, Obasanjo was formally declared the winner Wednesday over challenger Muhammadu Buhari by a 62 percent to 36 percent margin.

Sentencing is expected Friday for controversial South African populist icon Winnie Madiki-zela-Mandela after a court in Pretoria found her guilty on 68 counts of fraud and theft. The verdicts could send the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela to prison, a fate she has so far escaped despite being convicted as an accessory to the 1991 murder of a teenager who was a fellow antiapartheid activist.

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