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What's believed to be the largest gathering of world leaders in history was taking place in New York for the opening session today of the UN General Assembly. The so-called Millennium Summit is expected to conclude with the signing of a declaration committing the 150 leaders to eradicating poverty, promoting education, and reversing the spread of HIV, the virus identified as causing AIDS. But analysts also were focusing on such likelihoods as a discussion by Pakistan military ruler Pervez Musharraf of his country's dispute with India over Kashmir and a planned meeting on the sidelines between Israeli Prime Minister Barak and Palestinian Authority President Arafat.

The declaration of Palestinian statehood "might" be delayed until mid-November, senior sources said, if Israel hands over control of additional West Bank land. Arafat is widely expected to issue the declaration next week over Israeli and US objections. It already has been postponed three times. Nov. 15 is the anniversary of Arafat's 1988 declaration of Palestinian independence.

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Using his country's National Unity Day as a backdrop, former dictator Augusto Pinochet formally called on Chileans to overcome "yesterday's pain." Pinochet, who has been stripped of immunity from prosecution by the Supreme Court and may be tried for human rights abuses during his 17-year rule, urged the nation to "contribute to a peaceful future." His first public statement since returning from house arrest in London in March appeared to be an attempt to sound conciliatory without admitting guilt for the torture, deaths, or disappearances of thousands of critics. It was read by his granddaughter as he stood silently by, supported by his wife, Lucia Hiriart.

Gasoline and diesel fuel were being rationed across much of France as truckers blocked oil refineries and storage depots for a second straight day to protest soaring prices at the pump. Many stations either had run out or were put off limits to all but police and emergency vehicles. Including taxes, diesel fuel averages $2.55 a gallon. A government offer to cut taxes by about 10 percent was called "insufficient" by haulers union negotiators. They seek 20 percent.

A new round of argument and debate appeared likely between other Christian religions and the Vatican after the latter rejected the concept that any other faith could be equal to Roman Catholicism. A special 36-page statement repeated church teachings that all other faiths have "defects" because they don't recognize the pope as the successor to St. Peter, whom Christ Jesus designated as his first vicar on Earth.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society


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