The international peacekeeping force for Afghanistan appeared likely to begin arriving Saturday after the battered nation's new interim leaders agreed to 5,000 troops - five times as many as they originally wanted. But tough negotiations remained over whether the peacekeepers would patrol the capital, Kabul, and would be authorized to use force under the UN resolution authorizing their deployment. Meanwhile, the Northern Alliance of mainly ethnic Uzbeks and Tajiks that fought to topple the Taliban regime will cease to exist when the interim administrators assumes its powers, special US envoy James Dobbins said. (Story, page 6; related editorial, page 8.)
In related developments:
Laying groundwork for his takeover of Afghanistan's interim administration, Hamid Karzai was in Rome to brief exiled King Mohamad Zahir Shah. Plans call for the king to return home, probably by March, to organize a traditional council of elders who will form the first post-Taliban government.
"For the first time in history," Pakistani troops were deployed along the 1,560-mile border with Afghanistan to try to intercept fleeing Al Qaeda fighters, a senior military official said. But Dobbins said such refuge-seekers would be easier to apprehend once inside Pakistan because "I don't think it's possible" to seal all possible escape routes. (Story, page 1.)
At least four men died in a raid by special forces in Yemen aimed at flushing out suspected Al Qaeda supporters who were believed to have fled Afghan-istan.
More Palestinian attacks against Israelis followed Yasser Arafat's call for a halt to "terrorist activity," and the embattled leader found himself the target of unusually harsh criticism from other Islamic quarters. Iranian, Syrian, and Saudi news outlets slammed his televised appeal Sunday as "surrender" and said anti-Israel attacks by Palestinians "are just and legitimate." And in London, the editor of a prominent Arab-language newspaper said it was time for Arafat to retire.
Free food was being handed out to the poor in some Argentine provinces as authorities sought to quell potential looting after the government submitted its proposed 2002 austerity budget to Congress. But President Fernando de la Rua faced an uphill fight to win passage of the plan, which would slash state spending by almost 20 percent to try to ensure continued servicing of Argentina's $132 billion debt. Analysts said they expected the opposition-dominated legislators would demand the resignation of de la Rua's finance minister in exchange for OK'ing the budget by Dec. 31. Above, unemployed protesters beat on the gate of a supermarket in Buenos Aires, demanding food.