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"Clear instructions" were given by the new head of the Palestinian Authority for its security forces to prevent attacks against Israel by militant organizations. Anyone caught carrying out such attacks "will be punished," a member of President Mahmoud Abbas's cabinet said. But Israeli leaders dismissed the gesture as only "a small step" - not enough to warrant reopening the ties with Abbas that were cut by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over the weekend, following an assault on a border crossing that killed six people. An Islamic Jihad spokesman said Abbas's order "could cause a Palestinian-Palestinian problem" since his organization and others, such as Hamas, would not halt their attacks.

Plans for the Jan. 30 election in Iraq are "on track," a senior UN organizer said, and results of a new survey by a Baghdad newspaper showed that 67 percent of registered residents planned to go to the polls despite security concerns. Outside the country, notably in the US, Britain, the Netherlands, Australia, and Jordan, exiled Iraqis were reporting to registration centers to sign up. Meanwhile, 650 British troops arrived in Iraq to help maintain security for the voting, and Romania's government announced it would send another 100 infantrymen to protect staffers of the UN mission, on top of the 730 already there.

Separatist rebels "would never" attack tsunami-relief missions in Indonesia's Aceh Province, a chief pledged in an interview with the Associated Press. But the UN forbade staffers from traveling between two key cities in the volatile area because of reported fighting between the rebels and government forces, and the Danish government said it had learned of plans for "imminent" terrorism against relief teams. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka reported 7,275 more deaths from the Dec. 26 tidal wave, raising its total to 38,195 and the region's to more than 175,000.

Voters gave pro-Western President Stipe Mesic a landslide victory in Croatia's runoff election Sunday, and analysts said that would help the former Yugoslav republic in its bid for membership in the European Union. Mesic won 66 percent of the ballots, compared to 34 percent for Deputy Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor. The EU is due to open negotiations with Croatia March 17, although the two sides have yet to agree on a strategy for economic revitalization and on the extradition of war-crimes suspects.


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