Jubilant Hamas leaders proclaimed on the organization's website that the planned Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is "a great prophecy of victory." An audio file on the site also said the plan is a sign that Israel no longer can withstand terrorist bombings and attacks by Palestinian gunmen. In a related move, Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin called for an attempt by rival Palestinian militant factions to reach agreement on sharing power in the strip, although such efforts in the past have failed. Left, Palestinian workers wait at the Eretz crossing to be admitted to jobs in Israel.

Prominent Shiite clerics and political leaders heaped more criticism on Iraq's new interim constitution, declaring it illegitimate until an elected legislature OKs it. Elections for the first full-time postwar government appear months away, at a minimum. The Shiite's main concern appeared to center on clauses that, they said, would give the nation's Kurdish and Sunni Muslim minorities de-facto veto power over the shape of a permanent constitution. They made clear that they would seek to undo the clauses as soon as a new charter is drafted.

An emergency appeal for almost $50 million to feed and provide other humanitarian aid to Haiti was sounded by UN agencies as the impoverished nation adjusted to the ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The UN's World Food Program said food storehouses in the north were empty. Meanwhile, a blue-ribbon council was interviewing candidates to replace Aristide's prime minister

Eleventh-hour negotiations were under way between Argentine and International Monetary Fund representatives as the Buenos Aires government appeared likely to default on its second debt payment in six months. The talks took on added urgency because failure to pay the $3.1 billion due the IMF would render Argentina ineligible for future loans and would further isolate its recession-wracked economy from world markets. Last September, the government failed to meet a $3 billion debt repayment deadline to the IMF, a record.

Hope was fading that any survivors would be found from a crowded ferry that failed to arrive early Monday at a port on the giant Indian Ocean island nation of Madagascar. Radio contact with the vessel was lost in a cyclone Sunday that killed at least 18 people on Madagascar and left an estimated 50,000 others homeless.

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