Elections for a new government in Iraq cannot take place until security conditions there improve considerably, visiting UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said. But, on a mission to consult on choosing the nation's postwar leadership, he said he is "confident" a caretaker administration can assume responsibility for Iraq's affairs on June 30, as scheduled. He met with journalists as the commander of US marines in Fallujah warned that the truce in that Sunni Triangle city would not hold much longer.

Radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has dropped all conditions for negotiations on his future, his spokesman said. With Najaf, Sadr's refuge, surrounded by US forces, the spokesman said "Shiite religious authorities" would negotiate on his behalf. But Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Richard Myers, in Iraq for a first-hand evaluation of the military situation, said Sadr has marginalized himself with "his recent activities" and "is in a very weak position."

Yasser Arafat, little heard from in recent months on Israeli-Palestinian relations, warned the Bush administration against backing the Jewish state's plans to keep West Bank settlements. The Palestinian Authority president said all hope for peace in the Middle East would be killed in such a case and that "it would restart the vicious cycle of violence." Israeli leader Ariel Sharon, visiting Washington, was due to present his proposals to President Bush as the Monitor went to press.

Long lines of people began forming at 3 a.m. at polling places across South Africa for the nation's third election in 10 years as a democracy. The only question appeared to be the size of the victory margin for the African National Congress of President Thabo Mbeki. Optimism was running so high that the ANC was hoping to win the only two provinces it doesn't already control, despite opposition accusations that Mbeki has mishandled the nation's AIDS crisis, has failed to deliver on his promise to lower the 30 percent unemployment rate, and has ignored crime and corruption.

Voter turnout appeared well on the way to being large enough for a valid result in Macedonia's election to choose a successor to President Boris Trajkovski. Trajkovski, who was widely viewed as a unifier in the Balkan nation's fragile ethnic environment between nationalists and Albanians demanding a greater share of power, died in a plane crash in February. Late opinion polls showed Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski the probable winner of the balloting, but not by a large enough margin to avoid an April 28 runoff against the No. 2 finisher.

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