Hours before Secretary of State Powell was due to arrive, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reaffirmed that Israel's military offensive will continue, but said he knew it was causing "problems" for the US. He earlier called Powell's plans to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat Saturday a "tragic mistake." Palestinian officials, meanwhile, called Israel's pullout from two dozen West Bank towns Thursday a publicity stunt, and appealed for international monitors to stop "massacres against our people." Above, Palestinians in plastic handcuffs, some of the 4,000 Israel's military said it has detained in the two-week-old operation, are led through a checkpoint on the southern edge of Jerusalem. (See story, page 1; editorial, page 10; opinion, page 11.)

At least five people were reported killed and 20 injured when a fuel truck hit a wall and exploded outside an ancient synagogue on the Tunisian resort island of Djerba. Tunisian authorities were investigating the blast, which the official news agency called accidental. The El Ghriba synagogue is Africa's oldest.

The man known as South Africa's "Dr. Death" was acquitted on 46 charges ranging from murder to fraud and drug possession. The High Court judge in Pretoria said the prosecution failed to prove Wouter Basson committed any crimes during the 2-1/2 year trial. Basson led Project Coast, a chemical-warfare unit for the former apartheid regime that allegedly tested snake venom and other poisons on prisoners in plots to kill black political activists – among them former President Nelson Mandela. The government said it would appeal the decision.

Yugoslavia's Parliament approved law clearing the way for the arrest and extradition of some 20 war crimes suspects to the UN tribunal. The US has linked the resumption of $40 million in aid to the handover.

A fire aboard a ferry in the Philippines left at least 23 people dead and dozens injured, with more than 30 still missing, officials said. The MV Maria Carmela was carrying 290 people – below capacity – when the blaze broke out as it approached Lucena, 65 miles southeast of Manila.

Voters go to the polls Sunday in East Timor to elect a president, paving the way for the United Nations to hand over control of the former Indonesian-controlled territory May 20. Thursday, Xanana Gusmao, the former rebel leader widely expected to win the vote, vowed to make economic recovery his priority. He also said he would consider amnesties for pro-Indonesian militiamen, who killed hundreds after a 1999 referendum on independence. (Related story, page 7.)

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