Unidentified gunmen murdered a Muslim separatist leader regarded as a moderate and interested in dialogue with India's government on a political solution to the Kashmir dispute. Abdul Ghani Lone was shot at a public event in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital. The attack immediately preceded Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's arrival for a three-day inspection "to see what the reality on the ground is." Meanwhile, Indian and Pakistani forces exchanged some of the heaviest gunfire across their border in five days of combat, and a senior Pakistani diplomat said in London that the nuclear rivals were "very close" to war. Below, a Kashmiri villager surveys damage to his house after it was hit by a Pakistani mortar round.
Mocking President Bush's call for free elections in Cuba next year, a senior Havana government official said the US leader was "hunting for votes" in exile-heavy Miami "to help his little brother." Jeb Bush (R) is seeking reelection as Florida's governor. Except for the remarks by National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon, Cuba had no other immediate response to Bush's refusal to end the 40-year US trade embargo against the communist-run island. Cuban dissidents willing to be quoted called Bush's conditions for closer relations "Cold War rhetoric" and urged instead that "dialogue should prevail," which would give the Castro regime fewer "justifications" for continued repression. (Opinion, page 9.)
Yasser Arafat's approval rating among fellow Palestinians has fallen to its lowest level in his four decades of challenging Israel, results of a new opinion poll showed. The survey of 1,317 adults found 35 percent support for the Palestinian Authority president. Before the current intifada against Israel began in September 2000, Arafat's support was at 46 percent. But the poll also found no serious support for any other Palestinian to challenge his leadership. (Related story, page 1.)
The first peace negotiations between Tamil separatist rebels and the government of Sri Lanka in seven years caught observers by surprise. The two sides weren't scheduled to meet formally until next month to try again to resolve three decades of conflict. But three government representatives flew to rebel-held territory to discuss a controversial public bus service over a strategic highway that reopened last month under terms of the cease-fire that both sides have agreed to.