Suspicion immediately fell on the Basque separatist group ETA for the worst terrorist attack in Spanish history. Bombs exploded without warning in or near three Madrid railway stations at the height of the morning rush hour, killing at least 182 people. More than 900 others were hurt, many of them seriously. Three more suspected bombs were detonated by police under controlled conditions. Spain is due to vote for a new government Sunday, and officials had said ETA was on the ropes following a major crackdown by authorities there and in France.

The UN's nuclear watchdog agency was debating how harshly to deal with Iran as the confrontation over the latter's suspected weapons program neared a head. Sources said the International Atomic Energy Agency delegates probably wouldn't vote until Friday on a resolution censuring the Tehran government for failure to fully disclose its nuclear program. Iran insists its intentions are peaceful but acknowledged for the first time publicly Wednesday that its military has built centrifuges to enrich uranium.

The first meeting in more than three years between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak produced an agreement that the Cairo government would guard its side of the Gaza Strip if, as planned, most Jewish settlements are withdrawn. Both sides denied they had discussed the idea of Egypt's policing the strip to prevent a power vacuum. Israel maintains that tunnels from Egypt into Gaza are used to smuggle weapons to Palestinian militants. Sharon is expected to meet Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia early next week for talks also centering on an Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip.

Only the margin of victory appears in question for Russian President Vladimir Putin in his quest for reelection Sunday. He faces no strong rivals for a second term, and recent opinion polls give him a 70 percent approval rating. But the race has been lethargic, and analysts said the fact that he chose this week to reshape his cabinet indicated an attempt to stimulate voter interest and prevent a low turnout at the polls that could weaken his mandate.

Efforts by political opponents to impeach the president of South Korea were blocked by loyal lawmakers, who crowded the Speaker's podium in parliament, preventing a vote. Outside, another loyalist set himself on fire to protest the effort. Impeachment organizers said they'd try again Friday to put the matter to a vote. Roh Moo-hyun is accused of illegal electioneering and incompetence. He has refused to apologize for his actions, but he told a televised news conference he'd step down if one of the parties in his coalition government fares poorly in next month's parliamentary election.

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