Signs pointed to an imminent major US-Iraqi assault to finish pacifying Fallujah, with interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi warning of almost certain civilian casualties. He said of so-far fruitless negotiations with city representatives for a peaceful settlement: "The window is closing." At least 30 people died Saturday in terrorist violence, among them eight US marines in a car-bomb explosion outside Fallujah and a Japanese civilian, who was beheaded by his captors. Allawi's government demands that Fallujah residents hand over terrorist chief Abu Musaf al-Zarqawi and his followers and accept the return of Iraqi security units.

In a videotape similar to those made by terrorists in Iraq, the kidnappers of three UN hostages in Afghanistan threatened them with execution. A Taliban splinter group said on the tape that the hostages, who had helped to organize the country's Oct. 9 presidential election, would die by Tuesday night unless UN and British troops leave Afghanistan and the US frees all Muslims from its prisons in Kabul and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

From his hospital bed, Yasser Arafat telephoned an aide back in the West Bank and asked him to "Please tell my brothers that I am doing well." Doctors in Paris said the Palestinian Authority president requires further tests to determine the nature of his illness, but "what he has is curable." In his absence, other senior Palestinians met Sunday to demonstrate that their institutions continue to function. Should Arafat die, however, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would not allow burial in Jerusalem.

The last of more than 1,000 Muslims arrested last week by government forces in southern Thailand were to be freed amid expressions of outrage in the Islamic world over the handling of the incident. But the gesture did little to quell ongoing violence in the region. Gunmen killed a new police recruit from ambush and a road construction crewman in a drive-by shooting. Seven Muslims were killed as police and soldiers put down a riot last Monday, and 78 more died of suffocation as they were being trucked to a detention camp. Above, some of those being freed say goodbye to their guards.

Senior aides to Prime Minister Tony Blair have been ordered to draw up "urgent" plans for an early election in Britain, leading London newspapers reported. A spokesman for Blair did not deny stories in the Sunday Times and the Sunday Telegraph that he may call for the vote in February as opposed to early May, as most political analysts expected. Despite public concerns about Blair's trustworthiness in leading Britain into an unpopular war, the opposition Conservative Party has yet to gain on his Labour Party government in opinion polls, the Sunday Times said.

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