Responsibility for the security of much of central Iraq was transferred to a force of 9,000 peacekeepers from 21 countries, led by Poland. Handover ceremonies came as the new 25-member Cabinet appointed by the interim Governing Council was sworn in and began work. Meanwhile, in Brussels, international aid donors laid the groundwork for a conference next month on raising billions of dollars for Iraq's reconstruction, independent of the oil revenues already designated for that purpose.

No vote of confidence on Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is necessary, the Speaker of parliament said, despite the beleaguered leader's demand for one. The speaker said legislators already indicated their confidence in Abbas when he was sworn in last April. Abbas, who's scheduled to address the Legislative Council Thursday, is locked in a struggle for power with Yasser Arafat and has become increasingly unpopular with ordinary Palestinians.

In a move considered unusual, North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament formally OK'd the taking of "relevant measures" to build up a nuclear deterrent against "US preemptive attacks." The vote came less than a week after six-nation discussions ended in Beijing on the North's nuclear ambitions. The vote by the Supreme People's Assembly appeared to contradict official North Korean news agency comments that the government still wanted to resolve the issue through dialogue.

Speculation grew stronger that Nobel Peace Prize-winning democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi has required medical attention at a military compound in Burma (Myanmar) because she is on a hunger strike. The State Department reported Sunday that Suu Kyi, who was detained May 30, was refusing food in protest at her confinement. She was arrested after a clash between her supporters and those of the ruling junta and reportedly has had no contact with the outside world since a visit with Red Cross representatives in July. Members of her National League for Democracy said she never accepts treatment from anyone other than her personal physician, who has not been contacted in the matter.

Throwing a new obstacle into the path his opponents, leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said he won't accept the more than 3 million signatures on petitions seeking a national referendum on his rule. He told journalists his government would challenge any move by the National Electoral Council to certify the signatures as valid, calling such an eventuality "a destabilizing situation." Under the Constitution, a referendum can be scheduled after the midpoint of the president's term. The signatures, well in excess of the number required, were presented to the council Aug. 20.

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