US negotiators offered a guarantee of security for North Korea and a supply of energy in the form of oil in a bid to break the impasse over the latter's nuclear weapons program. In return, the communist North would have to begin dismantling its nuclear program within three months, subject to international verification, the US negotiators said as a new round of six-nation talks on the issue opened in Beijing. In Washington, the White House said no immediate response to the offer was expected, and the North's chief delegate to the talks didn't give one.

An international chorus of outrage greeted word that the kidnappers of a South Korean civilian in Iraq had decapitated him after all. His captors also issued a threat to assassinate interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who, they said, wasn't even aware that he already had "survived traps that we made for you." Allawi's office said the threat would not stop the transfer of power to Iraqis next Wednesday. Meanwhile, in a drive-by shooting in Basra, terrorists killed two Iraqi sisters who worked for the US construction company Bechtel Corp.

The release by Iran of eight British marines and sailors who were seized earlier this week appeared imminent as the Monitor went to press, with the Tehran government saying it was clear they "had no ill- intention." But their river patrol craft would not be returned, it said. In London, Prime Minister Blair's office said only, "We remain in discussion with the Iranians through our embassy in Tehran." Meanwhile, analysts speculated that the Britons were captured because they'd been deploying sensors to detect attackers approaching neighboring Iraq's oil terminals - a move that, if successful, would drive up the price of crude and damage President Bush's reelection prospects in November.

The number of dead and wounded in Monday night's rebel assault on government facilities in Ingushetia rose to 92 and 120, respectively, a commissioner investigating the incident said. Early reports had put those killed at 57. New information also indicated there were simultaneous attacks on 15 sites, even though security forces knew about 30 minutes beforehand that armed men were traveling toward the area in cars. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the permanent stationing of a regiment of troops in the republic bordering Chechyna.

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