Italy's Premier Is Asked To Form New GovernmentROME --Italy's president asked Romano Prodi on Saturday to stay on as premier and put his center-left government to a new vote of confidence in Parliament, seeking a swift end to the political crisis prompted by the cabinet's resignation days ago.

Prodi has demanded commitments from the parties in his coalition to support government policy, and he promised Saturday that he could command a majority in Parliament.

"I will seek a vote of confidence as soon as possible, with renewed impetus and a united and determined coalition," Prodi said.

But with a Senate majority constantly threatened and allies who have proved less than reliable, the new effort by Prodi risks the same instability that led to his resignation Wednesday.

THE AMERICAS · GUATEMALA CITY --Emergency crews found a third body in a 330-foot-deep sinkhole that swallowed a dozen homes in a crowded Guatemala City neighborhood Friday and forced the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people.

· BOGOTA, Colombia --Marxist rebels holding former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt hostage said she was still held in Colombia and they were open to talks on her release. Betancourt was seized in February 2002.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia has repeatedly called for President Álvaro Uribe to remove troops from a guerrilla stronghold in southwest Colombia as a precondition for talks to exchange jailed rebels for 60 high-profile captives.


· GAUHATI, India --Fifteen police officers who had been supervising elections were killed when suspected rebels ambushed their patrol in India's remote northeast, officials said.

· CHEECHA WATNI, Pakistan --Three Islamic fighters died in eastern Pakistan when a powerful bomb they were carrying on a bicycle accidentally exploded, police said.

The men were apparently targeting the funeral of a policeman in Punjab province, authorities said.

· SINGAPORE --Clad in military-style pants, bright T-shirts and dangling chains, 12 Singapore lawmakers grooved to hip-hop music in the city-state's largest annual street parade, part of the ruling party's efforts to ditch its authoritarian image.

The People's Action Party has ruled Singapore for more than 40 years, transforming it into a financial center. But the country's sometimes harsh social and political controls are well-documented: Homosexuality is outlawed, demonstrations banned. Even chewing gum is restricted.

AFRICA · GWERU, Zimbabwe --President Robert Mugabe, celebrating his 83rd birthday days ago, accused his main rival of trying to oust him with British help but vowed the efforts would fail.

Mugabe has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, and critics, who accuse him of human rights violations, say his policies have plunged the economy into collapse.


· ROME --Pope Benedict XVI condemned genetic engineering and other scientific practices that allow people to select "designer babies" by screening them for defects.

The pope also attacked artificial insemination and the widespread use of medical tests that can detect diseases and inherited disorders in embryos.

THE MIDDLE EAST · GAZA CITY --Four Palestinians, supporters of rival groups Hamas and Fatah, were killed in a family feud, threatening the calm that has followed a power-sharing deal between the groups.

· NABLUS, West Bank --Dozens of Israeli jeeps and armored vehicles raided the West Bank city of Nablus Sunday and placed the city under curfew.

-- From News Services