A majority of Iraqis say life is better for them now than it was under Saddam Hussein, The Sunday Times (London) reported. Of more than 5,000 people who were polled, 61 percent disagreed that their country is in a civil war and, by a 2 to 1 majority, respondents said they believe that the current military surge will result in the disarming of all sectarian militias. One in 3 said a family member had fled to safety abroad.

A new unity government of Hamas and Fatah elements was OK'd by the Palestinian parliament over the weekend. But Israel ruled out any dealings with it, and skeptics suggested it wouldn't survive because of longstanding enmity between the two factions. As if to underscore that point, President Mahmoud Abbas stressed the search for peace with Israel. But Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh held open what he called the right to all forms of resistance against the Jewish state.

Muslim separatists in southern Thailand retaliated for an attack on a boarding school Sunday, heightening concern that open warfare with Buddhists may be imminent. Three Muslims died in the assault, which police said they suspected was carried out by separatists themselves as a way of deepening grievances against Buddhists and the government. Within hours, hundreds of fellow Muslims went on a rampage, setting fire to a government-operated school and killing at least three Buddhists.

A kidnapped Italian newspaper reporter has been handed over to tribal elders in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban said Sunday. But they said Daniele Mastrogiacomo would be seized again if their remaining demands aren't met. Italian officials said his handover to a third party "is not a liberation." The Afghan government reportedly freed two of three senior Taliban detainees whose release was demanded. Italy has ruled out another demand: the pullout of 1,900 troops serving with the NATO force in Afghanistan.

The UN Security Council is expected to hear a "positive" report on Kosovo Monday despite a new refusal by Serbs there to accept any form of partition. The report will cover such areas as the rule of law but not UN envoy Martti Ahrisaari's proposal for the political future of the province, sources said. On Sunday, Russia said the UN should appoint a new envoy because of the deadlock between Serbs and the Albanian majority. At noon Saturday, Orthodox clergymen rang church bells across the province in a show of resistance to partition.

On two fronts, Nepal's struggling democracy was under new pressure as rival political groups fought in southern towns and communists in the interim government failed to show up on time for a meeting to assign cabinet posts. The meeting was expected to be rescheduled, but the communists were accused of behaving as though they were a parallel government and of still seeking to engender fear in the public. On Saturday, at least 50 people were hurt when campaigners for southern regional autonomy attacked supporters of established political parties.

Only some fine-tuning appeared necessary to resolve the last few disputes over a UN tribunal that will hear the cases of Cambodia's surviving Khmer Rouge leaders. A review committee said one of the issues was the $500 joining fee demanded of foreign lawyers by Cambodia's Bar Association before they may participate in the trials. Negotiations among the parties involved have eaten up almost one-third of the tribunal's expected three-year term. The trials of 10 Khmer Rouge leaders are projected to cost about $53 million.

State police in eastern Mexico were patrolling with only nightsticks after federal troops confiscated their guns and arrested two commanders. The move came amid a growing crime wave in Tabasco State. Earlier this month, in an assassination attempt by suspected rogue police, the state's new public safety director was wounded and his driver was killed.

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