India, Pakistan Discuss Cutting Nuclear Risk

NEW DELHI -- India and Pakistan opened negotiations Saturday to reduce the risk of an accidental nuclear conflict, six years after the neighboring rivals, who have gone to war three times since 1947, conducted atomic tests.

Experts from both sides focused on a ban on further tests and on preventing the accidental or non-authorized use of nuclear weapons, an Indian official said. The talks will conclude on Sunday.

India and Pakistan carried out nuclear tests in May 1998. Fears of a nuclear confrontation were exacerbated when the two countries' forces fought in the Himalayas in 1999 and came close to war again in mid-2002.

the middle east

* GAZA CITY -- Israeli helicopters fired three missiles at an empty metal workshop in the central Gaza Strip. No one was injured, Palestinian officials said. The Israeli army said the workshop was used by the militant group Hamas to make weapons. The strike came a day after Israeli helicopters attacked two empty metal workshops in Gaza City.

asia

* KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Taliban fighters attacked a government office in southern Afghanistan, sparking a gunfight with Afghan troops that killed seven people, police said.

Just to the north, two American soldiers were wounded and their Afghan interpreter killed when their vehicle hit a mine, the U.S. military said.

Deputy police chief Ghulam Jailiani said the gunfight occurred late Friday when 60 Taliban fighters attacked a government office in Mizan, a town in Zabol, a southeastern province that borders Pakistan. Five attackers and two Afghan soldiers died in the two-hour clash, which ended when a U.S. helicopter drove the fighters off, Jailiani said.

* BANGKOK -- Gunmen killed a police officer and a villager and a bomb wounded three police officers in a predominantly Muslim region in southern Thailand where the government has vowed to crack down on suspected militants. Unidentified assailants armed with M-16 automatic assault rifles shot a policeman as he walked to work in the province of Pattani, police officials said.

In a separate incident in neighboring Yala province, gunmen killed a Buddhist villager and then ambushed an army patrol, police said.

europe

* BRUSSELS -- Elation over the European Union's adoption of a landmark constitution fizzled after leaders of the 25-nation bloc returned home deadlocked over the selection of a European Commission president.

The debate over the successor to Italy's Romano Prodi laid bare old rivalries, with France and Germany again at odds with Britain.

* LONDON -- British intelligence chiefs and police are drawing up plans to seal off a large swath of central London to prevent a terrorist attack, the Observer newspaper reported on Sunday.

Key roads around ministries would be blocked off and the historic debating chamber in the House of Commons would be sealed with bomb-proof screens, the newspaper said.

-- From News Services