Almost no hope of a meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan appeared likely at a regional conference both are attending, officials said. The three-day conference, in the ex-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, opens today amid the highest Indian-Pakistani tensions in years. But there also were signs that both sides were pulling back from the brink of war. In an emotional speech, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said his forces would not be "impulsive" in the crisis, and he reiterated a pledge to avoid first use of nuclear weapons. And, en route to the Kazakhstan conference, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf vowed his country "will not start a war." Above, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee (r.) confers with his top military commanders as he leaves for Kazakhstan.

CIA Director George Tenet arrived in the Middle East for a special six-nation tour to gauge Arab support for sweeping reforms of the Palestinian Authority. As he did, a Palestinian newspaper reported that Yasser Arafat had decided to give up such posts as education and religious affairs minister. But it said he'd keep the job of interior minister and would not create a prime ministership, leaving his own executive powers intact. The changes will take place this week, the report said. (Story, page 7.)

Opposition parties were considering whether to lodge a formal challenge to the outcome of last week's election in Algeria for a new parliament. The tally of votes showed the National Liberation Front (FLN) won an absolute majority. The FLN, which ruled single-handedly from independence in 1962 until 1991, won 199 of the 389 seats – up from only 64 seats in the last previous election, in 1997. The election was boycotted by four parties and by ethnic Berbers, resulting in a turnout of just 46 percent of eligible voters.

In scathing terms aimed directly at President Bush, Cuba's Fidel Castro told an audience of hundreds of thousands of people his government would never change its socialist path, which "has created more property-owners than capitalism did over the centuries." In a driving rainstorm, Castro delivered a follow-up address to one given May 20 in response to Bush's call for a democratic "new Cuba." He called the US president "a showoff" and "a thug" who should "show some respect for others – and for yourself."

Four days of pomp and ceremony were under way in Britain to celebrate the 50th year of Queen Elizabeth II's reign, culminating tomorrow in a lavish procession to St. Paul's Cathedral for a thanksgiving service. An early highlight: Saturday night's concert of classical music performed by world-famous artists. It was attended by 12,000 people who won tickets through a national lottery, but giant video screens outside the gates to Buckingham Palace also made it available to an estimated 40,000 others. (Story, page 7.)

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