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India's dominant Congress Party, orphaned by the assassination of party leader Rajiv Gandhi, vowed Saturday to fulfill his dreams of a modern, stable India.

"We are clear in our perception. We will walk together and will never allow the sacrifice of Mr. Gandhi to go waste," P.V. Narasimha Rao, who succeeded Gandhi as Congress' president, told a public rally."A true tribute to the departed leader will be to stand by his ideals," Rao said.

The meeting in the capital was organized by the Congress Party to mourn Gandhi. He was killed May 21 by a young woman who triggered a suicide bomb during a campaign rally in southern India. No one claimed responsibility, but police suspect Tamil militants from neighboring Sri Lanka.

Gandhi's death forced authorities to halt the staggered, three-stage national elections after 40 percent of the electorate had voted on May 20. Remaining elections are scheduled for June 12 and 15.

Rao, 69, a former foreign minister with five decades of administrative experience, will guide the 106-year-old Congress Party through the elections. But he is not running for office because of ill health.

The voting will decide which party will rule the nation for the next five years.

Rao and other top party leaders attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress' strongest rival, which wants to turn secular India into a Hindu nation.

Many opinion polls published before the assassination predicted that Congress would win the most legislative seats but, lacking a majority, would have to form a coalition government.

The Congress Party has formed the government for all but four years since India's independence in 1947. During this period, the party has been led most of the time by a member of the Nehru-Gandhi family.


(Additional story)

Arafat knew of plot

Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat warned former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of a plot to kill him a month ago, the British newspaper Observer reported Sunday.

It quoted Indian Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar as saying Arafat had warned Gandhi of a conspiracy against his life.

Shekhar, who had met Arafat at Gandhi's funeral, said, "He told me of the warning when he came to pay his condolences. Unfortunately it was not the time or place to discuss the matter in detail."