The Baghdad City Council held its inaugural session, a major step toward democracy in Iraq and perhaps the most important event since Saddam Hussein was ousted April 9, according to US administrator Paul Bremer. He praised the 37 delegates for their courage at a time when "malicious people" represent a threat to "peace-loving citizens" - a reference to continued attacks against US and British forces as well as Iraqis who work with them. (Related stories, pages 1, 7; related opinion, page 9.)

In related developments:

• The US military released 11 Turkish soldiers detained Friday in northern Iraq, resolving a diplomatic dispute. Their capture was denounced by Turkey, where the public strongly opposed the war in Iraq.

• A parliamentary panel sharply criticized British Prime Minister Blair's government for the presentation of intelligence data ahead of the war in Iraq. But it concluded that Blair's communications chief Alastair Campbell did not exert "improper influence" on a controversial intelligence dossier. The dossier is the focus of an intensifying row between the government and the BBC, which reported in May that Blair aides rewrote the memo to add a claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.

Embattled Liberian President Charles Taylor accepted an offer of political asylum in Nigeria, without specifying when he'll leave power. Taylor (above, r.) announced his decision Sunday after talks with Nigerian counterpart Olusegun Obasanjo (l.) near the Liberian capital, Monrovia. A team of US military experts later arrived to assess security in the war-torn West African nation, as President Bush considers whether to contribute to an international intervention force.

In a rare about-face, Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa postponed action on a controversial antisubversion bill after massive public protests. The measure carries possible life sentences and opponents characterize it as the biggest threat to civil liberties since the former British territory reverted to Chinese rule six years ago. Tung is facing mounting calls to step down over his government's handling of the SARS outbreak and other perceived missteps.

Four family members of Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic are among 14 individuals whose bank accounts and other assets were frozen by international officials in Bosnia. The move is aimed at cutting off financial support to fugitives from the 1992-'95 conflict as the former Yugoslavia broke apart along ethnic lines. Karadzic, who's been indicted on genocide charges, is believed to be hiding in the region.

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