Amid fierce fighting, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi made an unannounced visit to Najaf, calling on militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to turn in their weapons and leave. His government also reinstated the death penalty for crimes such as murder and endangering national security. Meanwhile, Iran confirmed that one of its senior diplomats was missing in Iraq after a militant group said it was holding him hostage and accused him of inciting sectarian warfare.

Arab leaders were being pressured on two sides over the possibility of UN sanctions against Sudan. The Khartoum government sought their help in fending off the stiff economic penalties, and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said its membership was inclined toward a favorable response. But human rights activists insisted that such intervention would be "an insult" to the more than 1 million Muslims caught in the middle of the so-called ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region by marauding militias. Sudan has three weeks to show the UN Security Council it is moving to disarm the militiamen.

The opposition Labor Party and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud movement agreed on terms of an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and on general policy toward the Palestinians, moving the former closer to joining a coalition government. But Labor negotiators cautioned that the two still have sharp differences over economic policy. Sharon needs an alliance with Labor if he's to fulfill his plans for a pullout from Gaza, since hard-liners in his coalition quit in protest earlier this summer, costing him a majority in parliament.

Most of the 70,000-strong security force for the Olympic Summer Games in Athens moved into position, and the government declared Greece "the safest country in the world." Although there are no reported hints that the Games will be targeted by terrorists, security for the two-week event, which opens Friday, is budgeted at more than $1 billion - four times more than was spent on the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. Still, International Olympic Commitee president Jacques Rogge warned that 100 percent safety at such events never again can be guaranteed.

The mayor of a key city in Bangladesh escaped assassination in the latest of a series of terrorist bomb explosions, but one of his supporters was killed and at least 50 others were hurt. Heavily armed security forces were patroling Sylhet after the blast Saturday, the third in four days and the seventh so far this year. No one has claimed responsibility for any of the attacks.

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