While Congo's government is "open for dialogue" with all militias, it rejects rebel leader Laurent Nkunda's demand for direct negotiations, a spokesman said Tuesday. Nkunda, whose forces are within striking distance of Goma, the capital of strategic North Kivu Province, said earlier in the day that he'd march on the national capital, Kinshasa, unless President Joseph Kabila agreed to talks. The rebels also accused Zimbabwe and neighboring Angola of preparing to send troops to help Kabila's Army, as they did in the 1998-2002 war. Zimbabwe denied the claim; Angola did not comment immediately.

Islamic clerics and Vatican representatives opened three days of meetings in Rome aimed at defusing tensions and promoting better interfaith relations. The gathering comes two years after a speech by Pope Benedict XVI in which he appeared to link Islam to past incidents of violence. His remarks touched off furious protests in the Muslim world. He is scheduled to meet with both delegations Thursday.

Security precautions were tightened even further in Indonesia Tuesday amid threats to assassinate President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono and bomb the US and Australian embassies if three Islamist terrorists are executed. A bomb threat against a shopping mall in Jakarta proved to be a hoax. The terrorists are sentenced to die for bombing Bali nightclubs in October 2002, killing 202 people. Analysts suggested that the delay in carrying out the executions may be due to a state visit by Britain's Prince Charles.

Suspected Islamist separatists exploded three bombs in restive southern Thailand Tuesday, killing one person and wounding at least 71 others in the worst violence in the region in months. Cellphone service in the area of Narathiwat Province was shut off following the blasts to prevent any other devices from being triggered by remote control. One bomb targeted a popular tea shop at lunchtime. The others went off as local elders were leaving a monthly meeting in a government office. Last week, Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat visited the area and observed that tensions appeared to have eased.

A Tamil rebel breakaway faction in Sri Lanka will disarm and ultimately be integrated into the government's security forces, its leader told the BBC Tuesday. He did not say how many fighters are loyal to his Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Puligal group. The report came as other rebels claimed to have beaten back an offensive by Army troops near their headquarters at Kilinochchi, with the loss of 10 soldiers. The military denied the claim.

A new commissioner was named to head Mexico's federal police as at least 11 more people died in drug-related violence. Rodrigo Esparza, a lawyer in the National Security Agency, takes over the post following allegations that narcotics traffickers had infiltrated senior law-enforcement ranks under his predecessor. Among those killed in the latest wave of violence were the chief of police in Sonora State; a senior officer in Mexico State, which surrounds Mexico City; and four detectives in Guanajuato State.

Powerful winds capsized an interisland commuter ferry in the central Philippines Tuesday, killing at least 40 people, authorities said. Seventy-six others were rescued; 14 more were listed as missing. The regional police chief said high railings and a heavy tarpaulin that covered one side of the vessel may have trapped people trying to escape.

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