World

Israel and the Palestinians each indicated they were ready to make the gestures toward peace demanded by the other as their prime ministers prepared to meet for the second time in two weeks. But neither appeared willing to go first. The Palestinians want an explicit statement recognizing their right to statehood. Israel said that could come only after new Prime Minister Abbas made concrete progress toward ending terrorist attacks. Abbas, who's to hold talks next week with Hamas leaders, said he hoped for a truce from the militant organization by then. Islamic Jihad said Thursday it would halt attacks but only if Israel ceased military operations in return.

Security preparations were intense for the Group of Eight summit beginning Sunday in Evian, France. Almost 24,000 police and soldiers, backed up by missile batteries and radar were posted to guard against possible terrorist attacks that could come via land, water, or even paraglider from the nearby Alps. In addition, thousands of antiglobalization protesters are expected to try to disrupt the three-day meeting of leaders of the world's industrialized democracies.

In new signs of returning normality, British Prime Minister Tony Blair made the first visit to postwar Iraq by a Western leader, and the UN said it will resume the massive food-distribution program disrupted by the fighting. Blair said victory in Iraq meant other causes of instability in the region can be addressed "in a completely different atmosphere." The food- distribution program, upon which almost all Iraqis depended, will begin Sunday and last at least five months, the UN said.

Despite his government's deep differences with the Bush administration, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has decided to join the US in discussions on a common missile defense shield, reports said. But Chrétien's defense minister said a space-based system could not be agreed to. Earlier this week, Chrétien went out of his way to offer new criticism of President Bush and his handling of social, economic, and defense issues.

Seventy-two more deaths were blamed on the blistering heat wave that has gripped southern India for two weeks, bringing the count to 566. Temperatures in Andhra Pradesh state have reached 122 degrees F. Also hard-hit has been the poultry industry, with more than 1.4 million chickens perishing, authorities said.

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