A half-dozen trucks carrying flour and sugar were allowed through the Karni crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip Monday amid warnings of an impending humanitarian crisis due to food shortages in the impoverished territory. Israeli authorities closed the gate again later, citing a security alert, and Palestinian authorities complained that too little had made it through to adequately address the needs of 1.4 million people. Elsewhere in Gaza, six people were hurt in some of the heaviest fighting there in months between police and Fatah militants demanding jobs from the new Hamas-led government. Meanwhile, the European Union gave the UN a check for $78 million in aid for destitute Palestinians but warned that there might be no more unless the Hamas government commits to peace with Israel.
Iraq's political leaders agreed to form a National Security Council that will serve as an interim step to the permanent government, which has yet to be finalized. Negotiations on the latter will resume Saturday, reports said, because of Shiite and Kurdish holidays this week. The interim council will be headed by President Jalal Talibani and will consist of nine Shiites, four Kurds, four Sunni Arabs, and two secular politicians.
There was no sign of backing down by French leaders as their Monday night deadline neared for suspending a controversial employment law or risking a nationwide general strike. President Jacques Chirac said he supported Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin in the latter's efforts "to open a constructive dialogue" with opponents of the measure rather than bow to the demands of unions, students, and other opponents that it be scrapped. The law allows business owners to fire any employee who is younger than 26 without explanation. It was drafted without union input, and the opponents criticize it as little more than an assured source of cheap labor. De Villepin told an interviewer for a young people's magazine: "I rule out any withdrawal of the [law], which must be given a chance to work."
An American-owned mining company suspended exploration in Indonesia after becoming the latest target of protesters in what the government said appeared to be a coordinated campaign. Unidentified attackers set fire to a camp for Newmont Mining Corp. employees Sunday, destroying it but causing no injuries. Police said the attackers had demanded unspecified "compensation" for the exploration work. US-owned Freeport McMoRan, which also has mining interests in Indonesia, and oil-industry giant ExxonMobil also have been targeted by protesters recently. Extraction of natural resources by foreign companies is considered vital to Indonesia's economy, and the government said Army troops are ready to provide security for such operations if necessary.
Another intensifying cyclone appeared on track to hit coastal Queensland State in northern Australia after the region experienced the most powerful storm in decades. Cyclone Larry's winds of up to 180 m.p.h. early Monday left thousands of people homeless, cut electricity and water to at least 50,000 users, shut off travel by road, and wrecked sugar cane and banana crops. But it caused no deaths and few injuries, largely because residents had sufficient time to prepare. Its effect on the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia's leading tourist attractions, had yet to be determined.
Three thousand construction workers were evacuated safely Monday in London after the roof of $1.3 billion Wembley Stadium, one of the world's premier sports venues, failed. A rafter gave way as it was being welded, causing the roof to drop at least three feet. Wembley has been dogged by problems since rebuilding began in 1998. Organizers of the FA Cup, British professional soccer's showcase, conceded late last month that the 90,000-seat arena would not be ready for the May 13 event.