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To make the base image you want:
1) Make a new image the size you want with a transparent background.
2) Make a square the color you want and set the dimensions to overlap your canvas (just as you describe).
3) Make a circle, any color, to the size and position you want, over your square (visible with the square behind it). In the Properties panel, set the Edge to hard (since you know you want a transparent .gif in the long run).
4) Select both your square and your circle.
5) Use Modify>Combine Paths> Punch (CS3, anyway) to punch your circle out of your square.
To slice it up:
1) Turn on rulers if they aren't.
2) Drag a horizontal and vertical guide from the rulers.
3) Under View>Guides, make sure Snap to Guides is checked.
4) Use the slice tool (looks like a green rectangle) to draw four slices, using the guide lines to help.
5) In the Properties panel, set the file type for each slice to GIF.
6) In the Layers palette, in the Web layer, its useful to give each slice a unique name, instead of "Slice."
1) Use File>Image Preview (again, CS3).
2) Set the Transparency to Alpha Transparency.
Wow - thanks! Worked perfectly.
Welcome to vector shape combinations! ;) Fun, isn't it?