An estimated 70,000 demonstrators massed in Beirut's central square Monday to demand the immediate and complete pullout of Syrian troops. The protest followed an announcement by Syria's and Lebanon's presidents that the withdrawal will take place by month's end, but only as far as the strategic Bekaa Valley. Any additional redeployment, such as back inside Syria, will require further meetings, the two presidents said. In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed the announcement as "a half-measure" and his State Department counterpart said anything less than a full Syrian withdrawal would mean that the UN resolution calling for it "is not respected." The only sign of a pullback, as the Monitor went to press, was five Syrian Army trucks hauling furniture away from the coast and into Lebanon's mountains.
Jews will continue to live and pray in Hebron, perhaps the most volatile city in the West Bank, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vowed, after Palestinian terrorists fired on police guarding the Tomb of the Patriarch in the latest attempt to undercut a delicate cease-fire. The site is revered by both Jews and Muslims. Two policemen were wounded in the attack, one of them critically, and an immediate curfew was imposed on the city. Still, plans were proceeding to turn over to the Palestinian Authority control of Tulkarm, another West Bank city, Tuesday.
Legislators are scheduled to meet Tuesday in Bolivia to consider the surprise resignation of President Carlos Mesa. Mesa, who has been in office only 17 months, told the nation Sunday night in a TV address that he wants Congress to decide his political future in the face of seemingly endless public protests over laws governing the extraction of massive natural gas reserves, the raising of fuel prices, and demands for autonomy by the nation's wealthiest province. Analysts said it was unclear whether the resignation will be accepted. If it is, power will pass to the president of the Senate. Mesa's predecessor, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, fled into exile in October 2003 after a controversial plan to export gas touched off weeks of protests that killed 67 people.
Prison authorities were trying to account for as many inmates as possible after a fight between rival gang members turned into an inferno Monday in the Dominican Republic. Early reports said at least 133 people died in the provincial lockup in Higuey when some inmates set fire to their sheets and pillows and an entire cellblock became engulfed in flames. Only 26 inmates were found alive, the reports said. The gangs were trying to assert control over the drug trade inside the facility.