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Israel rejected a proposal by Hamas for a 10-year truce, calling it "ridiculous" and a smokescreen for planning future terrorist attacks. In proposing the initiative, Hamas leaders said it didn't mean they were recognizing the Jewish state but had come to the conclusion that "it is difficult to liberate all our land at this stage." They said the offer was contingent on Israel withdrawing from territory it has occupied since the 1967 war.

Using its sweeping powers, Iran's unelected Guardian Council quickly vetoed legislation passed by parliament Sunday to overturn the bans on thousands of would-be reform candidates in next month's election. The council itself blacklisted the candidates on grounds that they're not loyal enough to Islam. A spokesman for dissidents in parliament said their next steps could be mass resignations and a boycott of the election. But the council said 5,000 candidates had been cleared to run, ensuring "equal opportunity for competition."

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A decree recognizing the new Constitution of Afghanistan as "supreme law of the land" was signed by President Hamid Karzai. The 162-article charter was ratified Jan. 4 by 500 delegates to a grand council from all parts of the battered country. It outlines a democratic Islamic state recognizing women and men as equal, with a strong central leader, a two-house parliament, and an independent judiciary. But the UN has warned that the first nationwide elections under the new charter may not be held in June as scheduled because of ongoing security concerns.

Under pressure from neighboring Caribbean leaders, embattled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide agreed to meet with his political opponents on neutral soil "in the very near future." Reports said the get-together - provided opponents agree to it - would be held in Kingston, Jamaica, to try to end the violence that has killed dozens of Haitians in recent months. The opposition has rejected Aristide's call for a new election for parliament on grounds that voting wouldn't be free or fair.

Another human death was blamed on the so-called Asian "bird flu," whose spread was confirmed in Pakistan and South Korea. The strains in the two countries, however, appeared milder than those reported in Vietnam and Thailand. The latest casualty was a 6-year-old boy in Thailand, and authorities there said 10 more human cases were suspected.


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