Israel Asks U.S.

To Block Resolution

JERUSALEM -- Israel has asked the Bush administration to block any U.N. Security Council resolution after the U.N.'s highest court ruled its West Bank barrier was illegal, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Saturday. "The issue will go to the Security Council because the [Palestinians] can muster an automatic majority in the U.N. General Assembly," Shalom told Israel Radio, adding he had asked U.S. officials to prevent any resolution from being adopted.

The World Court issued a non-binding opinion on Friday that the partially built barrier, which cuts into the West Bank, should be dismantled.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat hailed the decision at his West Bank headquarters, saying it "was a sign that the world supports the Palestinians in rejecting this wall."

Israel has said the ruling was invalid because it failed to address its stated reason it built the barrier -- to keep Palestinian suicide bombers out of its cities where they have killed hundreds of people.

In Gaza, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl was killed by army gunfire near the Gaza-Egypt border, medics said. Military sources said they knew of no such shooting by Israeli troops.

On Sunday, an explosion rocked an Israeli bus near the central bus station in Tel Aviv, killing one person and injuring about 21 others. It was not immediately clear what caused the explosion.

AFRICA

* N'DJAMENA, Chad -- The presidents of Sudan and Chad agreed to set up joint border patrols following complaints from Chad that violence in Sudan's Darfur region has spilled over onto its territory, Chadian state radio reported.

The two leaders met in the town of Geneina in Darfur, the area of western Sudan where fighting has forced more than a million people from their homes and created what the United Nations says is now the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Sudanese president, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Bashir and his counterpart in Chad, Idriss Deby, also agreed to create a joint security commission and another group to assess damage caused by cross-border raids, the state broadcaster said.

THE AMERICAS

* CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuela's constitution does not explicitly bar President Hugo Chavez from running for immediate reelection if he loses an August referendum, but the Supreme Court will clarify this point, the court's president was quoted as saying.

Ivan Rincon's comments, published in an interview with the Caracas daily El Nacional, added further confusion to a fierce debate over the reelection issue between Chavez's supporters and opponents.

Facing an Aug. 15 recall vote on his tenure, Chavez said this week that if he were voted out, he could immediately run again in presidential elections within a month.

ASIA

* KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Taliban rebels attacked two military checkpoints, triggering fighting that left four people dead in southern Afghanistan, officials said.

The violence underscored the poor security in the region ahead of presidential elections set for Oct. 9. Suspected Taliban rebels have launched repeated attacks, despite the presence of 20,000 U.S.-led forces.

In the bloodiest battle, about 50 insurgents armed with assault rifles and machine guns attacked an Afghan militia checkpoint in the Spinboldak district of Kandahar province late Friday.

EUROPE

* INTROD, Italy -- In a major gesture toward Russian Orthodox Christians, Pope John Paul II will return a revered icon that the Vatican has held for three decades, the Vatican said.

The announcement, made while John Paul was vacationing in this Alpine hamlet near France, came as a surprise, although the Vatican has been talking about a return since Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Vatican in November.

The icon of the Mother of God of Kazan usually hangs in John Paul's private chapel.

* BRUSSELS -- Belgian police said they had made two arrests at Brussels' main airport, and local television reported that the suspects were Sudanese members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda movement.

-- From News Services