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Candidates for seats in Iraq's new National Assembly ended formal campaigning as voting by their countrymen in exile took place in countries as far-flung as Australia, Denmark, and the US. Although no incidents were reported abroad, gunmen in the volatile city of Ramadi assassinated Sunni party leader and legislative candidate Mizhar al-Dulaimi and wounded three of his bodyguards. Meanwhile, President Jalal Talabani told the Arab satellite TV channel al- Arabiya he won't be a candidate for reelection. Talabani, a Kurd, said Iraq's new constitution curbs the powers of the office.

All offices of the Palestinian Central Elections Committee closed Tuesday after gunmen from President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah Party forced their way into a headquarters in Gaza City as registration by rival Hamas candidates was to begin. Similar incidents took place in Rafah and Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip and in Nablus in the West Bank. No injuries were reported, but the invaders smashed computers and demanded a repeat of the primaries that were halted in areas where voting was tainted by allegations of fraud. A spokesman for the invaders said they want a delay in the Palestinian legislative election, which is scheduled for Jan. 25 and in which Hamas candidates are expected to do well. Abbas, who has struggled to exert control over Gaza since Israel's withdrawal last summer, condemned the takeovers and vowed to hold the vote on time.

Steady rainfall helped to prevent a third straight night of racially charged rioting in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia, and the legislature of New South Wales State scheduled a meeting for Thursday to consider new police powers to control the violence. The measures are expected to include ordering owners of taverns to close their establishments and erecting roadblocks to seal off neighborhoods where trouble has erupted. Meanwhile, there were reports of new attacks against - or harassment of - people of Middle Eastern descent in Perth on Australia's west coast and in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia. In Queensland State, the Associated Press reported learning of text messages promoting a rally Sunday to "start cracking skulls" of nonwhite groups.

Riot police used pepper spray to quell a protest by antiglobalists targeting the World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong. Inside the conference hall, another confrontation erupted over food aid to developing nations, with European Union Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson calling for "radical reform" of the US policy of shipping donations in bulk rather than in the form of cash, which the EU claims is less likely to affect the local trade balance. A spokeswoman for US Trade Representative Rob Portman said the US has proposed ways to ensure that bulk food aid does not skew local commerce.

Monthly payments of $180 each were to begin flowing from the government of Colombia to almost 2,000 right-wing paramilitary fighters who surrendered their weapons and helicopters in a major disarmament ceremony Monday. The members of the outlawed United Self- Defense Forces (AUC) also were granted amnesty and will be eligible for job-training programs. Their leaders, however, remain subject to prison sentences for involvement in such crimes as the mass murder of civilians in Colombia's ongoing fight against a stubborn communist insurgency. About 7,000 other AUC members have not yet demobilized. Critics argue that the deal is not sufficiently strict and does little to prevent the paramilitaries from reorganizing.

The communist government of Cuba refused to OK a trip by the wives and mothers of political prisoners to Strasbourg, France, where they were to receive the top human rights prize awarded by the European Union. The so-called "Ladies in White" were to share the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought with two other recipients. The presenters said they'd try to go to Cuba later to confer the award.

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