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A key segment of Iraq's Shiite Muslim leadership said it would back off its demand for a national election to choose the makeup of the first postwar government. Instead, Shiites on the interim Governing Council said, they would insist on an appointed transitional government that ensures their dominance politically as well as demographically. The US wants to put Iraqis in charge of their own affairs by the end of June. A team of UN experts sent to Iraq earlier this month to assess the feasibility of elections has yet to issue its findings, but is expected to recommend that no vote be held until at least late this year.

Indian and Pakistani negotiators reported a second straight day of progress in their first serious peace talks in 2-1/2 years. While no major breakthroughs are expected, the two sides said they'd agreed on a timetable for future meetings. Analysts said they expected formation of eight groups to discuss issues in dispute between the nuclear rivals as well as technical-level meetings on more cross-border bus and passenger rail service.

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The newest Nobel Peace Prize-winner said she'll protest the disqualification of thousands of so-called reform candidates for parliament in Iran by not voting in Friday's election. Shirin Ebadi made clear that her decision was a political gesture. Meanwhile, more than 100 members of the legislature who previously won election as would-be reformers of the rigid political system sent a rare public letter of criticism to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader. They wrote: "Institutions under your supervision ... have deprived the people of the most basic right - the right to choose and be chosen." Khamenei, whose supporters regard him as answerable only to God, was not expected to issue a response.

Political violence stretched into its 11th day in Haiti, with embattled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide appealing for international help to quell it. Antigovernment rebels were in control of most of the access to the richest agricultural region, and the number of deaths grew to 56, among them the police commander in Hinche district, 70 miles northeast of Port-au-Prince, the capital. In response to Aristide's appeal, the UN urged Haiti's Caribbean neighbors to "receive fleeing asylum-seekers."

Efforts by the ruling Liberal Party in Canada to contain a growing scandal were dealt a setback, as results of a respected new opinion poll put its popular support at just 35 percent. With a national election expected in May, analysts called that low a level "minority government territory." The scandal stems from the awarding of $76 million in government contracts to companies in Quebec friendly to the Liberals, which then kicked back large contributions to the party. The practice allegedly occurred between 1997 and 2001, during the rule of recently retired Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien. But his successor and former Finance Minister Paul Martin said Monday he'd resign if investigators should find he knew about the practice.


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