The foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan, a Muslim country that has long taken a hard line against the Jewish state, met publicly for the first time Thursday, a diplomatic breakthrough that follows Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The meeting in Istanbul was initiated by Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he hoped the meeting would lead to full diplomatic relations with Pakistan.

Thousands of mourners in Beslan, Russia, filed into the gutted gymnasium of Beslan's School No. 1 on Thursday to commemorate the anniversary of the hostage tragedy that claimed 331 lives. The three-day assault by masked guerrillas stunned Russia and prompted President Vladimir Putin to make sweeping political changes. Still angered over the government's handling of the tragedy, a group of victims' relatives appealed for asylum abroad.

Egypt will begin deploying troops on the Gaza border over the weekend, a milestone in ending Israel's 38-year occupation, Israeli defense officials said Thursday. Meanwhile, the Palestinians agreed to allow Israeli inspectors to monitor goods entering the Gaza Strip to safeguard against arms smuggling, yielding a key point in the final phase of Israel's pullout.

William Brownfield, the US ambassador to Venezuela, said Wednesday that American and Venezuelan officials are working out details of joint counter-drug efforts, following President Hugo Chavez's offer this week to renew cooperation. In early August, Chavez accused the US of using its drug agents for espionage, and said Venezuela was suspending cooperation with the US agency.

Detlev Mehlis, the chief UN investigator leading the probe into the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, said Thursday he believes more people could be involved in the killing than the five pro-Syrian suspects already arrested.

Thousands of people flocked to the funerals Thursday in Baghdad for the nearly 1,000 Shiite pilgrims, mostly women and children, killed in a stampede during a religious procession. Critics blasted the government for failing to prevent the disaster, possibly sparked by a rumor that a suicide bomber was about to strike.

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