Air India bombing defendants cleared

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - After a two-year trial, a Canadian judge on Wednesday acquitted two Indian-born Sikhs of murder and other charges in the deaths of 331 people killed when bombs exploded aboard an Air India plane over the Atlantic and at a Tokyo airport 20 years ago.

British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson said the prosecution's key witnesses were not credible.

The defendants - Ripudaman Singh Malik, 58, and Ajaib Singh Bagri, 55 - were immediately removed from the courtroom and then released.

Air India Flight 182 from Montreal to London, originating in Vancouver, exploded and crashed off Ireland on June 23, 1985. All 329 people on board, mostly Canadians, were killed.

An hour earlier, a bomb in baggage intended for another Air India flight exploded in the Narita airport, killing two baggage handlers.

Iraq's national assembly opens

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's first freely elected parliament in half a century began its opening session Wednesday after a series of explosions targeted the gathering. President Bush called the session a ''bright moment'' for Iraq, but added there was no timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops.

The parliament's 275 members, elected during Jan. 30 balloting, convened in an auditorium amid tight security in the heavily guarded Green Zone with U.S. helicopter gunships hovering overhead.

In Washington, Bush congratulated the new legislators, saying, ''We've always said this is a process and today was a step in that process. It's a hopeful moment.''

Serial child rapist, murderer hanged

PAKDASHT, Iran - A young man convicted of raping and murdering 16 boys was lashed 100 times, and then hanged Wednesday in front of a large, angry crowd who pelted him with stones and scuffled with police.

Mohammed Bijeh, 23, confessed in court to raping and murdering the children between March and September 2004. Iranian media have said Bijeh burned the bodies of his victims, all boys between 8 and 15.

Bijeh was sentenced to one death sentence for each murder he confessed and 100 lashes of the whip for the rapes.

Syrian intelligence completes pullout

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Syrian military intelligence agents abandoned their Beirut office Wednesday, ending their 18-year presence in the Lebanese capital by driving away in buses and cars.

The withdrawal was in line with international demands - including the United States and the United Nations - and the Lebanese opposition. President Bush on Wednesday again pressed for a complete withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence organizations from Lebanon.

''I believe we'll be able to convince Syria to fully withdraw or else she'll be isolated,'' Bush said.

- From wire reports