Soldiers fire on crowd in Uzbekistan

ANDIJAN, Uzbekistan - Soldiers opened fire on thousands of protesters in eastern Uzbekistan on Friday after demonstrators stormed a jail to free 23 men accused of Islamic extremism by the government of the U.S ally. About 50 people may have been killed in clashes with police and security forces, a protest leader said.

Protesters fell to the ground as the troops surrounded the crowd of about 4,000 and started shooting outside the city's administration building seized by the demonstrators.

Fighters remain in Iraqi border town preparing for battle

QAIM, Iraq - American warplanes roared over desert villages while armed militants roamed this town's streets Friday as more than 1,000 U.S. forces hunted down followers of Iraq's most wanted terrorist near the Syrian border.

American forces have met little resistance since the first two days of Operation Matador, aimed at clearing a region believed to be a haven for foreign fighters allied to Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who have been slipping over the border from Syria, the military said. American intelligence indicates the insurgents are either in hiding or have fled the region, U.S. Capt. Jeffrey Pool said in the statement.

AIDS activists file petition against vitamin salesman

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - A South African court on Friday opened a hearing against a self-styled nutrition guru who claims that anti-retroviral medicines are poisonous and that his own ''natural'' multivitamin therapies are more effective against the AIDS virus.

An AIDS activist group, The Treatment Action Campaign, had filed a petition with the Cape High Court against Matthias Rath, a German-born doctor who has a California-based foundation and claims tiny doses of natural nutrients can cure everything from heart disease to AIDS.

Pope Benedict puts John Paul II on fast track for sainthood

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI put his predecessor on the fast track for sainthood Friday and appointed San Francisco Archbishop William Levada as his successor as guardian of church doctrine, the highest Vatican office ever held by an American.

The pope's decision to authorize the start of the process for sainthood for Pope John Paul II overrode the usual five-year waiting period following the death of a candidate before procedures can begin.

U.S. Embassy rejects Russian spy allegations

MOSCOW - The United States on Friday sharply rejected allegations by Russia's security chief that Washington had used nongovernmental organizations and the Peace Corps for espionage and to promote political upheaval in the former Soviet republics.

The allegations were a sign of Kremlin displeasure as popular uprisings have sparked government changes in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in the past three months.

Afghan protests spread over alleged Quran desecration

KABUL, Afghanistan - Security forces opened fire and protesters stoned government and relief agency buildings as clashes in four Afghan cities left at least eight people dead Friday amid growing anti-American sentiment over the alleged desecration of Islam's holy book at Guantanamo Bay.

The deaths included a policeman and brought to 15 the number of people killed this week in the biggest outpouring of anti-American sentiment since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 - a deepening worry for the government of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai.

Hezbollah shells Israeli positions

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Hezbollah and Israeli forces exchanged barrages of shells and rockets across the Lebanese border Friday and Israeli warplanes destroyed guerrilla positions in the heaviest clash in months.

The flare-up in tension comes amid political turbulence in Lebanon. Hezbollah's ally Syria withdrew its troops from Lebanon last month, weakening Damascus's hold in the country - while Hezbollah has been seeking a greater political role.

Democrats to slow action on Bolton

WASHINGTON - Democrats opposed to the appointment of John R. Bolton as U.N. ambassador said Friday they will slow down the Senate's consideration of the embattled nominee as they try to build their case against him.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Friday that she will use procedural delays as they continue seeking information about Bolton from the State Department and other agencies.

- From wire reports