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Yasser Arafat called the vote by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud movement – ruling out statehood for Palestinians – "the destruction of the Oslo accords." The vote was seen as tying Sharon's hands in future dealings with the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Arafat, using a borrowed Jordanian helicopter, toured West Bank cities targeted by Israeli forces in last month's counterterrorism offensive. He did, not, however, visit Jenin, scene of the worst violence. (Related story, page 7.)

The 13 Palestinian gunmen allowed to leave the Church of the Nativity for exile abroad will be absorbed by members of the European Union as soon as this week, the group announced. They were identified as Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, and Greece. All but one of the Palestinians are housed in a Cyprus hotel after the 39-day standoff at the historic church. The other is receiving hospital treatment for a leg injury. Israel has sought their extradition.

The number of refugees returning to Afghanistan now has topped the 500,000 mark from neighboring Pakistan alone since the beginning of March, a UN official said. But the UN said only a fraction of the $4.5 billion pledged to help rebuild Afghanistan at an international conference in Tokyo in December has been converted into usable cash. Meanwhile, British troops in eastern Afghanistan ended a two-week mission, reporting the destruction of caves and bunkers as well as "a vast arsenal of weaponry" but no encounters with Al Qaeda or Taliban fighters. Above, at Kabul's airport, brothers Abdul Rashid (r.) and Abdul Khadil greet each other after the latter's return from refuge in Indonesia.


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