World

"I think you can say that tensions are down measurably," special US envoy Richard Armitage said after a weekend in which Indian and Pakistani leaders cooled their rhetoric over the Kashmir dispute. More cross-border shelling killed another 14 people, and India confirmed the loss of an unmanned spy plane that had penetrated Pakistani airspace. But India also suggested it would return some diplomats recalled from Pakistan and, in an official statement, welcomed President Pervez Musharraf's pledge to stop Muslim militants from infiltrating Kashmir from Pakistani soil. (Opinion, page 9.)

The reappointment of interim leader Hamid Karzai as leader of Afghanistan's new transitional government appears likely as the long-awaited meeting of the loya jirga, or traditional council, opens its work today. But there were concerns that Zahir Shah, the octogenarian former king, could complicate the loya jirga's work. He has said he'd agree to accept the head of state post if nominated. (Story, page 1.)

With Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon preparing for today's meeting at the White House, a new and smaller cabinet was announced by Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. His key advisers now number 21, 10 fewer than before. Arafat also gave up the interior ministry post, effectively putting a new deputy in charge of his security forces. But he warned in a broadcast speech of a "disastrous explosion that will impact the stability of the whole world" if Israeli forces do not withdraw from Palestinian-held territory immediately.

A new and more intense offensive by government troops was under way against Muslim guerrillas in the southern Philippines after Friday's raid that killed two of the latter's three hostages and hurt the third. The dead: US missionary Martin Burnham and Filipina nurse Ediborah Yap. Burnham's wife, Gracia, was recovering from a bullet wound. Now that the rebels have no more hostages, the military would not be constrained in its "search and destroy" mission, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said. Above, Filipino officers show off a rescued ex-hostage (in white shirt) and captured ammunition.

International mediators brought the rivals for the presidency of Madagascar face-to-face for the first time in an effort to defuse their bitter struggle for power. The talks were being held in Senegal. But early reports characterized the positions staked out by Didier Ratsiraka, who has refused to yield the office, and newly inaugurated Marc Ravalomanana as "very complicated and very delicate."

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