A senior lieutenant of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was arrested by US forces in Fallujah Saturday, but the weekend otherwise was painful to Iraqi stability:

• Terrorists disguised as policemen intercepted a convoy of 49 off-duty Iraqi soldiers near the border with Iran and shot them all, execution-style.

• Twenty-two other Iraqis died in a series of terrorist bombings north and west of Baghdad, along with State Department security officer Edward Seitz.

• Terrorists decapitated another hostage, believed to be an Iraqi civilian mechanic who had worked with US forces in Mosul.

• A spokesman for an organization of hard-line Sunni Muslim clerics told the Associated Press it will call for a boycott of the scheduled January election if it decides that the vote will prolong the US presence in Iraq.

By a 13-to-6 vote, members of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's cabinet OK'd his proposal for compensating the estimated 8,800 Jewish settlers who are to be forced from their homes in the Gaza Strip next year - a key step before parliament takes up consideration of the overall plan Monday. The plan also appeared headed for victory in a vote that could be held as soon as Tuesday, although the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party ordered its 11 lawmakers to oppose it.

The closest rival of interim Afghan leader Hamid Karzai conceded defeat as ballot- counting from the historic Oct. 9 election passed the 90 percent mark. A spokesman for Yunus Qanooni said his boss accepted the outcome as inevitable despite voting irregularities because it is "in the best interests of the nation." Unofficial results gave Qanooni 16.2 percent of the vote, well below what would have been necessary to force Karzai into a runoff.

All but a few members of the Serb minority in Kosovo boycotted the province's general election Saturday, dealing a new blow to efforts to forge a multiethnic society in which they and the Albanian majority can live together in peace. Election officials took comfort, however, from the fact that no major incidents of violence were reported. Final results from the balloting are not expected until later this week, but it appears virtually certain that they will leave the Albanian-dominated political landscape unchanged.

A magnitude 6.8 earthquake rocked northern Japan Saturday night, killing at least 21 people, injuring an estimated 2,000 more, and forcing tens of thousands of others into emergency shelters with no indication how soon they might be able to return home. Seismologists said they recorded 309 aftershocks and warned that another powerful temblor could follow within days. Above, the engine of one of Japan's bullet trains tilts off the rails from the force of the quake at a station in Nagaoka.

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