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Conflicting reports emerged from Paris Tuesday as the Monitor went to press, with some Palestinian officials denying a report by others that hospitalized Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, who reportedly was in deteriorating condition, had died. After going to Arafat's bedside, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and other senior officials described Arafat's situation as "very difficult." In the event of a funeral, US and European officials said Tuesday that cabinet ministers but not heads of state would pay their respects to the controversial leader. The US could conceivably send a former president. At left, a man in the West Bank city of Ramallah holds a poster of Arafat.

US Army and Marine units pushed through the center of the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah in Iraq Tuesday, fighting bands of guerrillas in the streets and conducting house-to-house searches on the second day of a major offensive to retake the city from Islamic militants. A total of 14 Americans have been killed in the past two days across Iraq, a senior Pentagon official said. As fighting raged in Fallujah, Prime Minister Iyad Allawi declared a nighttime curfew in Baghdad and its surroundings a day after a string of insurgent attacks in the city killed nine Iraqis and wounded more than 80.

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Sunni Muslim clerics called Tuesday for a boycott of national elections set for late January to protest the US-led attack against Fallujah. The boycott call is unlikely to attract much support among the majority Shiite population, but the lack of Sunni participation could raise questions about the legitimacy of the vote.

Sudan and Darfur rebels signed accords Tuesday meant to end hostilities and guarantee access to aid groups for 1.6 million civilians uprooted by conflict in the troubled western Sudan region of Darfur. For the first time, Sudan agreed to creation of "no-fly zones" over Darfur, banning military flights over rebel-held territories.

Under an extradition order signed by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, the former boss of the Cali cocaine cartel will be sent to face charges in the US, a government spokesman said Tuesday. Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela will be the highest-profile drug chief to be sent to the US to face justice since Colombia lifted a ban on extraditions in 1997.


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