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UN elections consultants were meeting with Iraq's interim Governing Council to discuss the viability of a vote not later than next Jan. 31 as the nation struggled through another wave of postwar violence. The most concentrated was in the southern city of Basra, where British troops fought with dozens of people who were resisting efforts to evict them from a government building. In Baghdad, meanwhile, US troops closed a weekly newspaper run by a Shiite cleric on grounds that it was being used to "incite violence."

Villagers were retuning to the region of western Pakistan where Army troops fought with suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants - or tribesmen believed to be hiding them - last week. A senior Army commander said his forces had killed 63 people and arrested 167 others, among them an Al Qaeda intelligence chief. He acknowledged that perhaps hundreds of others had escaped and remained at large. The Army casualties included 46 dead and 26 wounded.

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At least 19 people were killed and 26 others were hurt in terrorism-related violence in Uzbekistan, a US ally in the counterterrorism war. The incidents were blamed on Muslim radicals, and authorities said they appeared "interconnected." Most of the casualties came when a house used as a bomb factory exploded, but there also were two suicide-type attacks against police stations and two others in a shopping bazaar in Tashkent, the capital. The latter two attackers were women.

A major shake-up of President Jacques Chirac's cabinet appeared certain after his UMP Party was routed Sunday in regional elections across France. Speculation centered on Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin as the most likely to be replaced as the opposition Socialist Party and its allies won about 50 percent of the vote. Chirac and the UMP are barely halfway through his five-year term.

Hotlines were flooded with calls reporting violations of Ireland's first-in-the-world ban on smoking in pubs, restaurants, and other places of business and aboard buses and trains. The new law, which went into effect Monday, carries fines of up to 3,000 euros (US $3,825) per violation. Norway is scheduled to impose a similar ban in June.

Peter Ustinov, who died Sunday night in Bursins, Switzerland, was one of the world's best-loved entertainers. Over a career that spanned 74 years, he won two Academy Awards and a Grammy; wrote, directed, or narrated other films, plays and TV shows; wrote novels; directed operas; and served as a goodwill ambassador for the UN's Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.


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