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CIA director George Tenet is due back in the Middle East today for consultations with Israeli and Palestinian representatives on restoring cooperation in security matters. But prospects for a successful mission appeared slim because of widespread doubt that the fragile cease-fire would hold, because top Palestinian security officials were fired on by Israeli troops after their last such meeting, and because Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - in a TV interview - called Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat "a murderer" and a "pathological liar." A senior Palestinian official called those remarks "obscene."

A declaration of war was sought by the prime minister of Macedonia after ethnic Albanian insurgents killed five government soldiers in their sharpest attack in almost six weeks. He also demanded that the two Albanian political parties in his emergency coalition government declare which side they are on - "the murderers or the state." Last month, Western leaders talked the government out of a declaration of war after a similar rebel attack, to avoid complicating the search for peace.

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In a pair of last-minute setbacks, the ruling Labour Party in Britain was jolted by violent new ethnic rioting and by a respected opinion poll that cut its lead over the opposition Conservatives to 11 points, one of the lowest since campaigning began for today's national election. In Leeds Tuesday night, gangs of South Asian youths fought with police for seven hours, smashing store windows, firebombing cars, and hurling rocks. Similar rioting flared for three nights last week in nearby Oldham.

A newspaper known as the most aggressive in China in covering sensitive issues has been shackled after complaints by the state News and Publishing Bureau, the Financial Times reported. The Times said the firing of two top editors at Southern Weekend was ordered and reporters were instructed to stop writing about controversial subjects. All newspapers in China are owned by the state, but as government subsidies dwindle, editors have gained increasing autonomy.

The special commission charged with investigating last week's murders of royal family members in Nepal had yet to gather any evidence, reports said, and appeared unlikely to complete its report to the nation on time. The lack of progress was blamed on the refusal of an opposition Communist Party leader to accept appointment to the panel on grounds that its establishment was unconstitutional. Meanwhile, a third night of curfew was imposed on the capital, Kathmandu, although there has been no rioting by angry residents since Monday.

Under tight security, tens of thousands of refugees from East Timor were declaring for UN field supervisors whether they wish to return home from camps where they fled 20 months ago or be resettled in Indonesia. The refugees fled to West Timor to escape violence at the hands of pro-Indonesia militias, and their presence there has led to unrest on both sides of the dividing line.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor


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