Labor Party to Discuss

Coalition With Sharon

JERUSALEM -- Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel won agreement from opposition Labor Party leader Shimon Peres on Monday to try to forge a new coalition government that could push through a plan to withdraw troops and Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip.

In a warning to opponents within his Likud Party, Sharon threatened to call early elections if they did not back his efforts to broaden the government and ensure the withdrawal.

Sharon, sapped by the departure from his cabinet of former allies furious at the Gaza plan, invited Peres and his center-left Labor Party to look at forming a coalition that could remove Jewish settlers from the occupied territory.

"We will enter negotiations," Peres told Labor legislators after speaking to Sharon. "We must leave Gaza, we must take down the settlements."


* AGRIGENTO, Italy -- An aid agency ship carrying 37 Africans stranded offshore for weeks was allowed to dock on the southern coast of Sicily, but authorities later arrested two aid workers and said that some immigrants lied about coming from Sudan's war-torn Darfur region.

The German aid group Cap Anamur said its ship rescued the 37 men from a disabled vessel in the Mediterranean on June 20. Hours after the ship's docking, police arrested the captain and a crew member for allegedly aiding illegal immigration.

A statement from police read, "From the first checks it has actually emerged that they are not of Sudanese nationality, but on the contrary appear to be Ghanaian and Nigerian."

* BELFAST -- Catholic hard-liners attacked British soldiers and police in north Belfast after day-long parades across Northern Ireland by the Orange Order, the province's major Protestant brotherhood. No serious injuries were reported. The marches by Protestants marked a centuries-old battlefield victory over Catholics, and political leaders appealed to both sides to refrain from violence that could harm the delicate peace process.

* LONDON -- Activists launched a campaign to protect the right of Muslim women in Europe to wear Islamic head scarves. Bans on the wearing of the hijab, the traditional scarf worn on the head and shoulders, has underscored sharp divisions across the continent over integrating Muslim immigrants. Last month, the European Court of Human Rights rejected appeals by a Turkish student barred from attending Istanbul University medical school in 1998 because her head scarf violated the official dress code.

* MOSCOW -- The commander of Russia's Interior Ministry forces, Gen. Vyacheslav Tikhomirov, has resigned following criticism over a deadly attack in a region bordering Chechnya, the Interfax-Military News Agency reported. The guerrilla assault on police installations in the southern republic of Ingushetia on June 21 and 22 killed 88 and raised fears that separatist fighting in Chechnya was spreading to neighboring regions. Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev reportedly blamed the Interior Ministry forces for the high number of deaths.


* RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- A Sri Lankan woman was beheaded in the Saudi capital for murdering her employer, the Interior Ministry said. Bader Nisaa Mibari had been convicted of killing her Saudi employer after trying to rob her with the help a male companion, the ministry said. The beheading brings to seven the number of people executed in the kingdom this year.

* RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Palestinians have delayed municipal elections for three months until November, in a setback to attempts to bolster democracy and fight corruption. Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said the elections, which were due to begin in August in the town of Jericho, would be delayed while the Palestinian Legislative Council introduced changes to the election law.


* BOGOTA, Colombia -- More than 500 Colombian soldiers have been dismissed this year for poor performance, corruption or human rights abuses in the biggest purge of military ranks since 2000, an army spokesman said. Some of the soldiers, including 67 officers, were accused of having links with Marxist rebels or rightist paramilitary forces, an army spokesman said. Human rights groups accuse the government of not doing enough to break links between the armed forces and the paramilitary groups.


* SYDNEY -- The death of a surfer mauled by a shark has rekindled debate over the safety of people swimming off Australia's world-renowned beaches, as well as over the plight of sharks, some species of which are being hunted to the brink of extinction.

Bradley Adrian Smith, 29, died Saturday afternoon after being attacked in the Indian Ocean off Perth. Witnesses said Smith tried to fight off at least one and possibly two sharks. Authorities continued to hunt for the killer shark and said they would likely shoot it if they could prove the animal was responsible for Smith's death.

-- From News Services

African immigrants who were stranded offshore for weeks wait aboard a German aid ship after it was allowed to dock in Sicily.