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Those who demonstrated for the ouster of Syrian troops from Lebanon and for the pro-Syrian government to quit were back almost at Square One Wednesday. News outlets were filled with accounts of the massive rally in Beirut the day before "in gratitude to Syria." And with the support of Hizbullah and Syrian sympathizers in parliament, caretaker Prime Minister Omar Karami appeared virtually certain to be reappointed to the office from which he resigned last week. Meanwhile, in Damascus, embattled President Bashar Assad exulted in an equally huge rally proclaiming full support for him in the face of international pressure to withdraw from Lebanon.

Iraq's interim planning minister survived an assassination attempt by unidentified gunmen in Baghdad. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which killed a bodyguard. Earlier, police found the corpses of 41 people in two widely separated locations.

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Chechen rebels confirmed the death of their chief at the hands of Russian troops, but vowed that their separatist campaign would not be slowed. Russian legislators were interpreting the death of Aslan Mas-khadov as a sign that the Kremlin's counterterrorism campaign is working. But analysts said the Kremlin should be worried that Maskhadov, who had the legitimacy of once being democratically elected as president of the volatile republic, would be succeeded by Shamil Basayev, an even more notorious leader.

The Irish Republican Army was confronting the most widespread outpouring of revulsion in years over its offer to execute four men for their roles in the grisly murder of a pub patron in Belfast Jan. 30. Two of the unidentified men are former IRA members who'd been expelled. No one has been charged in the death of Robert McCartney, although the crime had dozens of witnesses, because of their refusal to talk. The IRA does not recognize the authority of the police in Northern Ireland. McCartney's family has rejected the offer, insisting that the killers be brought to trial. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern called the IRA offer "a shock to the system." His British counterpart, Tony Blair, said it "frankly defies description."

The offer to resign was withdrawn by President Carlos Mesa of Bolivia after Congress unanimously rejected it Tuesday night. Mesa, in office just 17 months, emerged from the vote and told supporters that the ordeal had "managed to bring the country closer together." But opposition leaders refused his demand for an end to protests over his economic policies that have brought the country to a near-standstill and more demonstrations were being planned for later this week.


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