WASHINGTON

- Sen. John McCain quietly slipped into Syria for a meeting with Syrian rebels yesterday.

The visit took place amid meetings in Paris involving efforts to secure participation of Syria's fractured opposition in an international peace conference in Geneva.

McCain has been a leading proponent of arming the rebels and other aggressive military steps against the Assad regime. He has criticized Obama-administration policy there while stopping short of backing U.S. ground troops in Syria.

EU's Syrian sanctions to expire amid debate

BRUSSELS

- Austria's foreign minister said yesterday that the European Union's top diplomats have failed to agree about how to deal with Syria's civil war, and EU sanctions against Bashar Assad's regime are likely to expire Saturday.

However, three other European diplomats insisted that the 27-member bloc still had a chance to come to an agreement. One said yesterday's talks in Brussels were "far from over." The three spoke on condition of anonymity as the proceedings continued.

During a break from critical EU talks aimed to work out a common position on Syria, Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger told reporters he was concerned about what he called a failure to reach a common position and said that after the EU sanctions collapse "everybody is entitled to deliver weapons to the Assad regime or to the opposition."

Fire strands thousands on Caribbean cruise

BALTIMORE - A fire that broke out aboard a Royal Caribbean ship yesterday did enough damage that the rest of the cruise was canceled, and the cruise line said the more than 2,200 passengers aboard will be flown from the Bahamas back to Baltimore.

The fire that began at 2:50 a.m. yesterday was extinguished about two hours later with no injuries reported. A cause wasn't immediately known.

Royal Caribbean said in a series of tweets that executives have met with passengers and that the cruise line is arranging flights for all 2,224 guests today. It said passengers will receive a full refund of their fare and a certificate for a future cruise.

Chilean volcano spurs evacuation of 3,000

SANTIAGO, Chile - Chilean and Argentine officials issued a red alert yesterday for the increasingly active Copahue volcano bordering the two countries and ordered the evacuation of about 3,000 people.

Chilean Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick said the increased activity could lead to an eruption, and officials would soon begin evacuating 2,240 people, or 460 families, within a 15 1/2-mile radius.

The nearly 10,000-foot volcano sits in the Andes cordillera, overlapping Chile's Bio Bio region and Argentina's Neuquen province.

Abandoned car causes major N.Y. gridlock

NEW YORK - An abandoned SUV on the Brooklyn Bridge brought traffic to a halt for about an hour at the tail end of the Memorial Day long weekend as New York City police temporarily shut down the roadway to determine whether the vehicle was a threat.

Authorities said a call about the car, a Dodge Durango with no license plates on the Manhattan-bound lanes, came in about 5:15 p.m. yesterday. The vehicle was stopped a short distance into the bridge's span coming from the Brooklyn side of the East River.

Police shut down traffic in both directions about 6 p.m., causing a traffic headache as drivers were forced to find alternate routes. Authorities declared the all-clear about 7 p.m., with traffic resuming soon after.

Iraqi bombings kill 66

BAGHDAD

- A coordinated wave of car bombings tore through mostly Shiite areas of Baghdad yesterday, killing at least 66 people and maiming nearly 200 as insurgents step up the bloodshed roiling Iraq.

The attacks in markets and other areas frequented by civilians are the latest sign of a rapid deterioration in security as sectarian tensions are exacerbated by anti-government protests and the war in neighboring Syria grinds on.

N.Y. officials: Visitors unsafe on Liberty isle

NEW YORK

- New security plans for the Statue of Liberty could leave visitors vulnerable when it reopens July Fourth, New York officials said yesterday.

Sen. Charles Schumer and New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly called for the National Park Service to reverse its plan, which calls for visitors to board boats in either lower Manhattan or New Jersey and stop at nearby Ellis Island for security.

The statue was closed after Superstorm Sandy. Storm surges flooded Liberty Island.

-Daily News wire services