Soldier death toll reaches 2,001

BAGHDAD, Iraq - The American death toll reached 2,001 Wednesday with the announcement that a soldier died in an accident the night before.

The soldier, whose identity was withheld pending notification of relatives, died in a vehicle accident Tuesday evening near Camp Bucca, a U.S. detention center in southern Iraq, the military said. The statement raised by one the number of U.S. service members killed in the war a day after the somber milestone of 2,000 was reached.

Three mostly Sunni Arab parties said they have formed a coalition to compete in upcoming parliamentary elections as the minority moves to consolidate its power in the political arena.

Suicide bomber kills five in Israel

HADERA, Israel - A Palestinian suicide bomber standing in line at a crowded falafel stand blew himself up Wednesday in this central Israeli town, killing five people, wounding 21 and eroding hopes that Israel's Gaza pullout would revive peace talks.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack in Israel in more than three months, with the Iranian-backed group saying it was in retaliation for the killing of a top militant leader by Israeli troops earlier this week.

Wednesday also marked the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Islamic Jihad chief Fathi Shekaki outside a Malta hotel in a mission widely attributed to Israel.

Strain of bird flu found in Croatia

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Union said Wednesday the dangerous H5N1 strain of bird flu has been found in Croatia, while authorities said a second parrot that died in quarantine in Britain also was infected with the virus.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, announced that a bird flu outbreak has killed 545 chickens and ducks in a village in central China - the country's third case of the disease in two weeks. A government laboratory confirmed the virus was the H5N1 strain that has devastated poultry populations in Asia and killed 62 people.

Four Arab men convicted of plotting attacks

DUESSELDORF, Germany - A court Wednesday convicted four Arab men of plotting to attack Jewish targets in Germany and found three of them guilty of being members of a terrorist organization.

Mohamed Abu Dhess, Ashraf al-Dagma and Ismail Shalabi were given sentences ranging from six to eight years in prison for their roles in planning the attacks and for forming a terrorist cell of al-Tawhid in Germany.

A fourth man, Djamel Mustafa, was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in plotting the attacks and for supporting a terrorist organization.

Saddam's lawyers want safety

AMMAN, Jordan - Iraqi lawyers defending Saddam Hussein said Wednesday they had suspended further dealings with the Special Tribunal trying him until their safety is guaranteed, citing the kidnapping and murder of a lawyer representing one of the former dictator's co-defendants last week.

A statement signed by Khalil al-Dulaimi, who leads the former dictator's defense team, said poor security put the lawyers and their families in danger.

Anti-terror law passes in Britian

LONDON - Prime Minister Tony Blair's government won a crucial parliamentary vote on sweeping new anti-terrorism legislation Wednesday, but faced a further fight over plans to lock up terror suspects for 90 days without charge.

Following a lengthy debate in the House of Commons, lawmakers voted 472-94 to back the terror bill.

''We must all pause, draw breath and think through the implications very carefully indeed,'' Conservative law and order spokesman David Davis said. ''Poorly drafted counter-terrorist measures have many risks.''

Philippine troops capture militants

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine troops captured seven suspected Muslim militants Wednesday, including the leader of a group of Islamic converts linked to the kidnappings of foreigners and an alleged plot to bomb the U.S. Embassy, officials said.

Hilarion del Rosario Santos III, the alleged leader of the Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement, was arrested with his wife and five other people while they were sleeping in a hideout in southern Zamboanga city. Officials said the arrests thwarted new bombing plots by the group.

- From wire reports