Fifty-six Hindus died aboard a passenger train in western India that was set on fire by angry Muslims, bringing sectarian tensions to a boil and causing Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to cancel his trip to the annual Commonwealth heads of state meeting. Ninety miles away, mobs also tried to burn two buses, apparently in retaliation. The train was carrying activists home from the northern city of Ayodhya, where Hindus want to erect a temple on the site of a mosque that was razed 10 years ago. An estimated 300,000 Hindus were gathered in Ayodhya, and local officials complained "there is no way to seal off" the city. Above, a policeman inspects the gutted interior of the train.

Opposition as well as support was building in the Middle East for a proposal to trade Arab recognition of Israel for the latter's withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat embraced the idea, the militant Hamas movement rejected it except as a temporary rather than a permanent move. (Story, page 1.)

"Total war" that will result in "5,000 or 10,000 deaths" lies ahead for Colombia unless "we sit down and talk again," a senior commander of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) warned. He spoke as government forces killed five suspected rebels and captured 30 others after eight of their own troops and a civilian boy died in FARC attacks earlier in the week. Meanwhile, President Andres Pastrana asked for expanded US military assistance - but not intervention - to help fight FARC, which he compared to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.

Slobodan Milosevic, claiming to be a victim of "injustice," asked the UN war-crimes tribunal in The Hague to free him so he can better prepare his defense. "You know full well I am not going to escape," the former Yugoslav president said. His plea and lampooning of the prosecution drew a stern reprimand from the court, although it agreed to consider the request. Milosevic has been charged with 66 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s.

Peace negotiations on the future of Congo were in turmoil after the government and the rebel Rally for Democracy (RCD) could not agree on a slate of delegates from opposition political parties. The RCD called them front men for President Joseph Kabila. Government representatives said they would not agree to any substitutions. The talks, on neutral ground at a South African resort, were aimed at ending 3-1/2 years of civil war.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed in the capital of Madagascar after a confrontation between supporters of both presidential rivals turned violent. At least 10 people were hurt. Reports of two deaths could not be confirmed, but witnesses said backers of newly self-proclaimed President Marc Ravalomanana set fire to a radio station that has sided with incumbent Didier Ratsiraka. The violence raised tensions in Antananarivo and contrasted with weeks of massive - but peaceful - demonstrations.

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