At least 16 dead in helicopter crash

KABUL, Afghanistan - A U.S. military helicopter crashed in bad weather in southeast Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing 16 people, including four American crew members in the deadliest military crash since the U.S.-led offensive began in 2001.

An Afghan police official said all the dead, including the four crew, appeared to be American. However, the U.S. military provided no details of the passengers' identity. Two more people were listed as missing.

The U.S. military suggested that severe weather brought down the CH-47 Chinook near Ghazni city, 80 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul, as it returned from a mission in the militant-plagued south.

Iraqi parliament elects Kurd as new president

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Two months after elections, Iraq's new government finally began to take shape Wednesday as lawmakers elected as president a Kurdish leader who promised to represent all ethnic and religious groups in a session broadcast across the country - and shown to Saddam Hussein in his jail cell.

Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani was chosen for the largely ceremonial job of president, while Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite, and current interim President Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni Arab, were elected vice presidents.

Talabani's selection and the expected choice of Ibrahim al-Jaafari as prime minister further consolidate the power shift in Iraq, where both the Shiite Arab majority and the Kurdish minority were oppressed, often brutally, under Saddam's Sunni-dominated regime.

U.S., Israel split on settlements

JERUSALEM - Israel has the right to strengthen Jewish settlements in the West Bank, an Israeli Cabinet minister said Wednesday, a day after President Bush affirmed support for a peace plan that calls for a construction freeze in settlements.

Justice Minister Tsipi Livni acknowledged there are serious differences between Israel and the United States over Jewish settlement expansion.

Saudis clash with Islamic militants

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Security forces have killed 15 Islamic militants in four days, including three on the most wanted list, in the most intensive fighting seen in Saudi Arabia's two-year war on terror.

The latest slain militant was Abdul-Rahman Mohammed Mohammed Yazji, killed Wednesday by police in a raid in a run-down industrial area of the capital, Riyadh. Yazji is suspected in a November 2003 bombing of a housing complex that killed 17 Arabs.

- From staff reports