News in World Media

Arafat Meets Rival Palestinian Group in Move to Create Unity

DAMASCUS, Syria -- The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, made a rare effort Sunday to secure unity among the Palestinian factions in anticipation of renewed peace talks with Israel later this summer.

Arafat met in Cairo with representatives of George Habash, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is based in Syria. It is perhaps the most powerful of the exiled Palestinian groups opposed to the peace made between Israel and the Palestinians in 1993.

A senior Palestinian official, Nabil Shaath, described the meeting as "very positive," but it was unclear whether the talks would result in a more united Palestinian front. A spokesman for Habash's group, Abu Ali Mustafa, said it would be important for the Palestinians to forge a common position on the many sensitive disputes remaining with Israel.

The meeting served as a new sign that Arafat is more ready than ever before to plunge into the kind of serious, sensitive talks that could lead to a final peace. But it also served as a reminder of the fact that the Palestinians are far from united, and that exiled groups like that of Habash still carry considerable influence.

Sunday's meeting was the first between Arafat and Habash's group since 1993, when Arafat's agreement to the so-called Oslo accords, the peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, led to a major rupture been the two factions. Habash, who is based in Syria, did not attend Sunday's meetings. No public explanation was provided, but journalists in Syria say that he has been in ill health.

Palestinian officials in Cairo said the main focus of the talks had been the recent proposal from Ehud Barak, Israel's new prime minister, to postpone carrying out the latest peace measures between the two sides until they could reach agreement on the broader issues dividing them.

Barak had asked the Palestinians to take two weeks to think about his plan for delay. Arafat has shown no willingness to agree, but President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, an important patron, has said he would try to mediate.

The fact that Arafat has decided now to meet with such an important dissident faction seemed to suggest a recognition from all sides about just how much might now be at stake. Barak has said he believes a full peace with the Palestinians might be possible in just 15 months, and such a timetable would confront Arafat and his Palestinian rivals with some difficult questions.

Among those would be not only the wisdom of the initial peace agreement that Arafat signed with Israel in 1993, but the more sensitive questions that will be at the center of any accord that might lie ahead -- including the status of Jerusalem, the shape of any Palestinian state, and the rights provided to millions of refugees.

Syria is home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, including many aligned to Habash's group. Along with Lebanon, its ally, it has been the base for the most radical dissents among Palestinians to Arafat. Habash formed the popular front in 1968 and built it into a powerhouse second only to Arafat's Fatah organization.

First lady explains, defends president

LONDON - First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton blames her husband's infidelity on a desire to please women that can be traced back to his childhood, according to The Sunday Times. ''He was so young, barely four, when he was scarred by abuse. There was a terrible conflict between his mother and grandmother,'' Mrs. Clinton tells Talk magazine in its debut issue, according to the London-based newspaper, which said it obtained a copy of the interview. She also defended the president as ''a, very, very good man,'' but said, ''Yes, he has weaknesses, yes he needs to be more responsible, more disciplined.''

India train explosion termed bombing; 80 feared dead

A powerful explosion at a railroad station which has killed an estimated 80 people early Monday is being called a bomb blast, according to Indian officials.

An estimated 200 people were injured, and officials expected the death toll to climb.

Monica Lewinsky suffers scrapes and bruises in car accident

VENTURA, California (AP) -- Monica Lewinsky suffered scrapes and bruises Sunday when her sport utility vehicle overturned on a freeway, the California Highway Patrol said.

Lewinsky, who was driving alone, reached over to the passenger seat to take something out of her purse, realized she was close to a motor home, veered away and then lost control of her vehicle, said Bob Inman, a CHP dispatcher.

Her Ford Explorer crossed a dusty median strip on state Highway 101 about five miles north of town and toppled on its side, he said.

"She was awake and alert when paramedics arrived," he said.

Lewinsky, who lives in Los Angeles, was not cited for the accident and alcohol or drugs were not involved in the 1 p.m. crash, Inman said.

Lewinsky was transported to Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, where she was treated and released, according to a nursing supervisor.

Her father and another person, who was not identified, came to the hospital to pick her up, the supervisor said.

It was unclear how fast the former White House intern was driving, where she was going or what she was trying to get out of the purse, he added.

The southbound lane was closed for about 30 minutes while the vehicle was towed away.