The time was not right for talks to end the mounting tension between the governments of India and Pakistan, senior officials in New Delhi said. The US has urged the two sides to resolve their differences through dialogue amid the largest military buildup in 15 years. Instead, Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh refused to answer reporters' questions about the likelihood of another war between them over Kashmir. He announced that Pakistani planes would not be allowed to use Indian air space and ordered a 50 percent reduction in the embassy staffs in each other's capitals. Below, Pakistani soldiers load ammunition for an antiaircraft gun. (Story, page 1.)
With world attention fixed on a new videotape of Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan's interim government placed the missing Al Qaeda leader "with friends" of an Islamic activist in neighboring Pakistan. But a Defense Ministry spokesman would not reveal the source of that information. Meanwhile, US spy drones, fighter planes, and a B-52 bomber were observed in "constant" activity over the Tora Bora region that had been bin Laden's refuge, although no new bombing was reported. (Related story, page 4.)
The countdown to extinction was under way for the currencies of Europe's major countries, with banks converting the funds in existing accounts to euros and officials urging the public to forget the various expiring forms of legal tender. Even in Britain, one of three European Union members not joining the new single currency system, retailers were preparing to accept the euro in trade. On Tuesday, 304 million people begin using euro banknotes and coins.
An unexpectedly high turnout of voters thronged the polls in Zambia's cities for a national election that analysts predicted would result in coalition government for the first time. Voters waited patiently in rain and mud to cast ballots for a successor to retiring President Frederick Chiluba. No major policy differences emerged during campaigning among the leading candidates to replace him, and no political party appeared likely to win a majority of seats in parliament.
Saying, "we see arson as an atrocious thing," the acting premier of Australia's New South Wales state announced a task force aimed at catching people who set any of the more than 100 fires wreaking havoc around Sydney. New Year's Eve celebrations in the city's famous harbor area were not likely to be affected, but banks were setting up special funds so revelers could contribute to fire victims.