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Complaining that this summer's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip will increase conflict with the Palestinians as well as acts of terrorism, noted author Natan Sharansky quit as minister of diaspora affairs in the Israeli cabinet. His departure was seen as widening the internal strains in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government. Sharansky's latest book, "The Case for Democracy," has won international acclaim. He called the pullout "a tragic mistake." But tensions also appeared to be escalating among Palestinians, as Hamas flatly rejected an order by President Mahmoud Abbas to stop carrying weapons in public in Gaza. Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined the call for new peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, offering to serve as a mediator.

Six of the seven remaining posts in Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's cabinet were filled, his aides said, leaving only the key responsibility for national defense. Jaafari was lobbying for the latest nominees to be approved by parliament in time for Tuesday's scheduled swearing-in ceremony. But terrorists again exploited the security vacuum, exploding two more car bombs in Baghdad that killed at least nine people. In all, 127 people were reported dead since legislators partially OK'd Jaafari's cabinet last week. Still, National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie told CNN: "Probably, the back of the insurgency has already been broken."

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A village was left in ruins and at least 28 people were killed when a cache of weapons exploded under the home of an Afghan warlord 75 miles north of Kabul, the capital. It was not immediately clear what caused the blast. An Interior Ministry spokesman said the weapons had been stored in a bunker, apparently to keep them from being seized in a disarmament campaign sponsored by the UN. The warlord, Jalal Bashgah, was not home, but eight members of his family died.

At least two people died and 25 others were hurt when a bus went out of control and crashed into coconut palms in the same Sri Lanka town where a bus-train collision killed 37 people last week. In the latest accident, police said the driver of the bus was racing a competitor - a common practice in the island nation, where the first bus to arrive at a given stop is entitled to board the most passengers.


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