Nine Iraqi militias promised to disband and make the transition to their new government's security forces, to job-retraining programs, or to retirement in a plan to be funded to the tune of $200 million. But the deal does not include the remaining gunmen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Each of the nine militias is allied with a mainstream political party, and none is known to have been resisting the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which will yield power to an all-Iraqi administration at the end of the month. Militias not participating in the new program will be declared outlaws.

A pullout of 12,500 US troops from South Korea by the end of next year appeared almost certain as the two nations opened a two-day conference in Seoul on the future of their alliance. A withdrawal of that size would represent one-third of the US military presence on the tense peninsula. The US troop strength is dwarfed by South Korea's uniformed military, but any reduction in numbers carries with it high symbolism because of the American deterrent value vis-á-vis communist North Korea.

Israel appeared close to a deal with Egypt that would provide for hundreds of the latter's border police and military experts to guard the Gaza Strip and work with Palestinians in organizing an effective security force there once the Jewish state withdraws its forces. But Prime Minister Sharon's pullout plan rested on only a one-seat majority in parliament after he had to fire two far-right cabinet ministers Sunday to win its approval. At that, Sharon was forced to agree not to vacate Jewish settlements in Gaza for at least nine months and in four phases, each requiring a vote.

UN staffers and their families were being pulled out of eastern Congo as the European Union considered whether to send in peacekeeping troops to deal with spiraling violence that threatens to collapse the nation's year-old peace deal and power-sharing government. The trouble erupted last week as renegade soldiers seized the key city of Bukavu, near the border with Rwanda, driving out an Army unit. But reports said the Army was attempting to retake the city. In Kinshasa, the capital, members of parliament were debating an emergency- powers declaration as the Monitor went to press.

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