US envoy Anthony Zinni wants Israeli and Palestinian officials to attend a joint security meeting Sunday, according to Israeli army radio. Zinni returned to the Mideast yesterday to resume a peace mission cut short last month by violence. Ahead of his arrival, Israel detained five suspected Islamic militants in raids on Palestinian areas while announcing it would ease restrictions, including a pullout of its forces from several West Bank cities. Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo denounced the move as "a fake withdrawal."
Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared "War is not a must," but ruled out one-on-one talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to defuse the current crisis. Both are attending a regional summit that begins today in Nepal. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to press for a diplomatic solution in talks with Indian officials this weekend. He began a South Asian tour yesterday in Bangladesh. Above, Indian soldiers patrol in Punjab, near the heavily armed international border with Pakistan. (Story, page 1.)
A breakthrough is expected soon in talks on the surrender of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and some 1,500 fighters, according to Nusrat Ullah, a senior intelligence official in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan. Though US officials are openly skeptical of a deal, Ullah said anti-Taliban leaders are working out final terms with tribal chiefs in Bagran who are sheltering Omar. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's new interim government in Kabul released more than 250 detained Taliban fighters, keeping a promise of leniency toward low-level troops. (Related story, page 6.)
Australia is turning to US technology to help fight 100 wildfires that have raged for 12 days around Sydney. Officials are renting two huge water-dumping helicopters from a Central Point, Ore., company. The S-64 helitankers, which can draw 3,500 gallons of water into their tanks in 45 seconds, are due arrive next week.
Switzerland has relaxed a ban on knives for airline passengers imposed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to a Swiss federal aviation official. Under the new rule, knives with blades shorter than 2.4 inches that cannot be locked open will be permitted in carry-on luggage. That description applies to many Swiss army knives, which are popular souvenirs.