Attack aircraft and tanks were supporting US ground forces in the most intense fighting in months to root out Iraqi resistance. A resident fleeing the combat in and around Khaldiyah, west of Baghdad, said at least 10 houses had been destroyed in the clash, which began after a roadside bomb exploded as an American convoy was passing, killing a soldier and wounding another. Meanwhile, in a series of raids in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, 92 suspects were arrested, although a military police spokesman said it appeared none of them were "the trigger-pullers attacking the coalition."

A Shiite Muslim cleric, on the committee studying how Iraq should draw up a new constitution, escaped death when unknown attackers fired on his car in Baghdad. Jalaladin al-Sagher was en route home late Sunday when the attack occurred. It came less than a week after one of three women on the interim Governing Council died of her wounds in a similar shooting. The constitutional process is a vital step in transferring power to a permanent Iraqi government.

In a rare instance of public self-criticism, a senior Palestinian politician told journalists that the current, three-year-old intifada has left his people worse off "politically and internationally" than before it began. In interviews with the Associated Pess and with the Lebanese newspaper Daily Star, newly ousted security chief Mohamad Dahlan also said Palestinian aspirations for statehood have been damaged by a misreading of the changes brought by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US. Taking up weapons against Israelis, he was quoted as saying, was a mistake that prevented "our bring[ing] back the international legitimacy of our authority." Dahlan will not be part of new Prime Minister-designate Ahmed Qureia's administration. But leading Palestinian militant Marwan Barghouti, on trial for intifada-related murders in an Israeli court, said in his closing statement that he had no regrets over the past three years because, "To die is better than living under occupation."

The path of the controversial security barrier being erected on the West Bank by Israel will be changed to take as little of the campus of a Palestinian university as possible, officials on both sides announced. The barrier - a fence in places but a wall in others - would have cut through the athletic facilities of Al-Quds University in the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis. But Israel's Defense Ministry agreed in negotiations with school officials to reroute it.

Saying warmer winter temperatures "maybe would be good," Russian President Vladimir Putin disappointed senior UN officials who were pressing him to set a date for ratification of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Putin told delegates to a five-day conference in Moscow that his government is studying the "difficult and unclear" implications of the environmental treaty and that "a decision will be taken when this work is finished." The US already has pulled out of the treaty, and a matching move by Russia would cause its collapse.

Electricity was restored across Italy after the collapse of the nation's power grid late Saturday, leaving more than 50 million people in the dark. The blackout appeared to have been caused by a tree falling on the transmission line bringing electricity into Italy from Switzerland.

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