The US commander in Iraq and his aides escaped a bold assassination attempt Thursday as they visited a local civil defense compound in the volatile "Sunni triangle" city of Fallujah. No one in Gen. John Abizaid's party was reported hurt when unknown attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade at them. The attackers escaped. Meanwhile, the UN mission sent to Iraq to evaluate the feasibility of a national election emerged from a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, the Shiite spiritual leader who has been insisting on a vote, and said they backed his demand.

The agreement by Iran's government to cooperate in an investigation of its nuclear program was under a new cloud after UN experts found blueprints for a centrifuge used to produce bomb-grade fuel. The Tehran government has insisted its nuclear program is purely peaceful. Last October, Iran gave the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency what it said was a full declaration of the program that did not include the blueprints, diplomats said. They also said there is no evidence the European company that makes the centrifuge had supplied the blueprints.

Israel's government announced it will refuse to cooperate with the World Court as the latter considers whether to rule that the security barrier being erected in the West Bank be torn down. Such an order would be nonbinding, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office said it views the matter as beyond the court's jurisdiction and politically motivated.

Throwing rocks and manning flaming barricades, supporters of Haiti's president forced cancellation of a protest march Thursday by his opponents. The demonstration in the capital, Port-au-Prince, followed days of violence elsewhere in the impoverished nation that has killed at least 47 people. At his first news conference since the violence began, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide Wednesday repeated his vow not to leave power until his term ends in 2006.

Saying, "We are ready to spill our blood," supporters of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez were massing in Caracas to stop an opposition rally scheduled for Saturday. The opponents hope to march to the national elections council building, where officials are deciding whether to authorize a referendum this summer on Chávez's controversial rule. Council members have before them petitions calling for the referendum with 3.4 million signatures that must be verified. But they are behind schedule, and a referendum must be organized and completed by mid-August if Chávez is to be replaced via a new election.

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