US administrators in postwar Iraq postponed until mid-July a planned national gathering at which an interim government will be chosen. At the same time, 20 percent of the barrels of radioactive material stored at Iraq's largest nuclear facility were reported missing, and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said UN monitoring teams might be readmitted to the country to help at such sites. In another development, the UN Security Council is expected to vote Thursday on the US-sponsored proposal to lift economic sanctions against Iraq.

A new audio tape was broadcast to the Arab world, calling on Muslims to "turn the ground beneath the feet" of Americans and Jews "into an inferno." Al Jazeera TV said the voice on the tape was Ayman al-Zawahri, the top lieutenant to Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The message specified the "missions" of the US, Britain, Australia, and Norway and "their interests, companies, and employees." It came as the national terrorism alert in the US was raised to its second-highest level following a wave of bombings against Western and Jewish targets in Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and intelligence suggesting more attacks to come.

Authorities were scrambling to determine the scope of mad- cow disease in Canada after one animal on a northern Alberta farm tested positive. The government's Food Inspection Agency quarantined the farm and two others and said the herd from which the animal came will be destroyed. It also sought to reassure trading partners that the situation was under control after the US, Australia, Japan, and other nations banned Canadian beef imports.

A dramatic increase in the number of people left homeless by record flooding in Sri Lanka was announced by relief officials. They more than doubled their estimate to 350,000. At the same time, they lowered the count of deaths due to the floods and accompanying landslides from about 300 to 260. With water levels finally receding, the Tamil Tiger rebel movement in the north of the island was aiding in the relief work by organizing shipments of rice to the stricken south, reports said.

The race to broadcast the first live TV pictures from the summit of Mt. Everest was won by a team of Chinese climbers, who displayed their nation's flag and struggled to be heard against an "extremely strong" wind. A US team had hoped to achieve the distinction on the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of the 29,040-foot peak, the world's highest.

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