The number of deaths from Sunday's terrorist bombings in northern Iraq rose to 67. But leaders of the region's Kurdish community said the attacks would only bring its rival political parties closer and increase their determination for self-rule. The twin blasts were the worst in postwar Iraq since last August, when a car bomb went off in the Shiite Muslim holy city of Najaf, killing more than 80 people. Meanwhile, a senior US commander said Iraqi police and civil defense forces are ready to assume control of security in Baghdad, the capital.

All 17 Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip are to be dismantled, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told his Likud Party. The settlements are home to about 7,500 people. No timetable for the move was cited, but Sharon has warned for weeks that he'd take unilateral steps to impose a security boundary on Palestinians if there is no progress toward resuming peace talks by summer. Political opponents said they doubt he will go through with removing the settlements, suggesting that Monday's announcement was aimed at diverting attention from legal problems involving his family.

If the hard-line fundamentalists who rule Iran intend to hold the Feb. 20 election for parliament on schedule, they may need to call out even the most elite units of the military, analysts said after President Mohamad Khatami's cabinet voted unanimously against conducting it. Earlier Sunday, more than one-third of the members of parliament quit over the disqualification of almost 3,700 candidates on grounds that they aren't loyal enough to Islam. The largest reform party also announced a boycott of the voting even if all the rejected candidates are reinstated.

It is true that the "father" of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program sold secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya, a government official told journalists. On condition of anonymity, he said Abdul Qadeer Khan admitted guilt in writing "a couple of days ago." But it remained unclear whether Khan, who was fired Saturday from his cabinet post, would be put on trial.

Two returning vacationers were undergoing medical exams in Germany on suspicion that they were infected with the "bird flu" virus. Both had been in Thailand, where another human death from the disease was reported Monday. Still another death was reported in Vietnam, bringing the total across Asia to 12. Thailand, the world's fourth-largest producer of poultry, so far has slaughtered 25.9 million chickens to try to stop the spread of the virus, reports said.

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