The much-anticipated Arab League summit was descending into confusion in ways that analysts said revealed deep splits in its ranks. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who did not attend, also had a planned satellite feed of his speech pulled by the host government, Lebanon. The Palestinian and much of the United Arab Emirates delegations walked out in protest. Lebanese officials said the speech could be seen later. Saudi Arabia, whose proposal for regional peace was to be the centerpiece of the summit, asked the Lebanese to apologize for the snub. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah also failed to attend. (Story, page 1.)
Israeli leaders, reacting guardedly to the Saudi proposal, said they needed to know what is meant by the term "normal relations" with Arab nations and that a second regional summit to which they would be invited was necessary. Meanwhile, soldiers stopping a Palestinian ambulance in the West Bank found a vest hidden inside that contained 22 pounds of explosives apparently bound for a suicide bomber in Ramallah.
Pledges of assistance from around the world were pouring in to Afghanistan in the wake of Monday's earthquake, whose confirmed casualty count rose to at least 800 deaths and more than 3,000 injuries, a UN representative said. But aftershocks continued to be felt in the region, and some areas were so devastated that officials said finding survivors and meeting their needs "is beyond the interim government's [ability]." Above, using only his hands, a survivor clears rubble from his collapsed house.
Protests by laid-off workers and retirees in China spread to the capital, Beijing, as hundreds of elderly people blocked a main street for hours, demanding overdue pension and medical compensation payments. The demonstration ended only after an official at their former workplace, an auto assembly plant, agreed to listen to their complaints today. In Liaoyang in northeastern China, where furloughed iron workers have been demonstrating for weeks, a new protest was planned for today.
For the first time in seven years, face-to-face peace negotiations between Tamil rebels and the government of Sri Lanka will open in the first week of May, the latter announced. A neutral country, such as Thailand, is expected to provide the venue, reports said. A spokesman said the government was prepared to meet the Tamils' major conditions for the talks, among them legal recognition of their movement and "full" implementation of a cease-fire accord brokered by Norwegian mediators. Eighteen years of fighting between the two sides have killed more than 64,000 people.