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Nuclear neighbors explore peace

By Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 4, 2003

NEW DELHI - The United States on Saturday welcomed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's initiative for peace with Pakistan, a move that raised hopes the two nuclear-armed neighbors can resolve their decades-old dispute over Kashmir.

Secretary of State Colin Powell called External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha from Damascus, Syria, to praise the peace moves, a Sinha spokesman said Saturday.

On Friday, Vajpayee ended a two-year impasse by saying India was ready to name an envoy to Pakistan and resume air links. Islamabad responded by swiftly agreeing to talks and restoring diplomatic ties.

Powell also had a telephone conversation with Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali on Saturday in which he praised India and Pakistan's decision to hold talks.

The main source of friction is Kashmir, which is divided between the two nations by a Line of Control but claimed by both in its entirety.

Bus explosion kills 6, burns bystanders

HANOI, Vietnam - The death toll from a fiery bus explosion in northern Vietnam has risen to six, doctors said Saturday.

Seventy others were badly burned and reported in serious to critical condition.

Police were investigating the cause, but the state-controlled Lao Dong (Labor) newspaper quoted investigator Do Dinh Tuan as saying it may have been caused by flammable cargo being carried on the bus.

At the National Burn Institute near Hanoi, a man and a 5-year-old boy died Saturday, said a doctor who identified himself only as Hanh. He said 51 others were being treated there, including more than 40 in critical condition.

Two people died overnight from their burns at St. Paul Hospital in Hanoi, where 18 others were being treated. Two others died Friday.

The aging Russian-made bus was carrying more than 40 passengers when it burst into flames Friday morning as it was about to leave a market in Dai Bai village, 25 miles northeast of Hanoi.

The explosion sent 10-foot flames shooting out of the vehicle's windows, witnesses said.

The blaze burned more than 30 other people who were outside the bus, including vendors selling cloth that went up in flames.

Helicopter crashes after dousing forest fire

MOSCOW - A transport helicopter crashed Saturday as it returned from dropping water on a forest fire in far eastern Russia, killing all 12 people on board.

The Mi-26 helicopter plunged to the ground after a cable for carrying the water container became tangled in the aircraft's rear rotor, said Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The Mi-26 crashed near the village of Novokruchinsky in the Chita region, about 3,000 miles east of Moscow.

The dead included seven helicopter crew members; a camera operator and producer from state television; a reporter and photographer from a weekly magazine; and a forest management official, said a duty officer in the regional department of the Emergency Situations Ministry.

Striking oil workers escort hostages ashore

PORT HARCOURT, Nigeria - Hundreds of hostages left the offshore oil rigs where striking Nigerian oil workers held them captive for weeks - signaling a peaceful end to the standoff Saturday.

Some essential staff would remain behind on the four oil-drilling platforms, but "everyone else, they are departing in phases" over the weekend, said Guy Cantwell, spokesman for rig owners Transocean Inc. in Houston.

Many of the 170 Nigerian and 97 expatriate hostages - which include 35 Britons, 17 Americans and two Canadians - traveled Saturday with their 100 captors on boats and helicopters to port cities in the southern Niger Delta.

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