Iraq president says Saddam has confessed

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's president said Tuesday that Saddam Hussein had confessed to killings and other ''crimes'' committed during his regime, including the massacre of thousands of Kurds in the late 1980s.

President Jalal Talabani told Iraqi television that he had been informed by an investigating judge that ''he was able to extract confessions from Saddam's mouth'' about crimes ''such as executions'' which the ousted leader had personally ordered.

Asked about specific examples, Talabani, a Kurd, replied ''Anfal,'' the codename for the 1987-88 campaign which his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan maintains led to the deaths of about 182,000 Kurds and the destruction of ''dozens of Kurdish villages.''

However, Abdel Haq Alani, a legal consultant to Saddam's family said Saddam did not mention any confession when he met Monday with his Iraqi lawyer.

Troops hand over Najaf to Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. jets struck targets Tuesday near the Syrian border where al-Qaida has expanded its presence, and civilians fled fighting in the northern city of Tal Afar, complaining they were running short of food and water.

To the south, U.S. troops handed the Iraqi army control of Najaf, a Shiite city that saw bitter fighting last year.

The U.S. command also said four more Americans had been killed in action.

Saudi forces hit militant hideout

DAMMAM, Saudi Arabia - In a barrage of gunfire and explosions, Saudi special forces overran a seaside villa Tuesday where Islamic militants had been holed up, ending three days of heavy fighting that killed at least nine people.

Security forces that swept into the building in the eastern city of Dammam found several charred bodies, apparently those of militants killed in explosions - suggesting the death toll from the fighting would rise.

Code violations probed in fire

BENI SUEF, Egypt - Survivors of a blaze that killed 32 people in a crowded theater said Tuesday that only one exit was available as the audience stampeded in panic, and authorities were looking into possible fire code violations.

Monday night's fire was believed to have begun when an actor knocked over a candle, igniting a paper-filled set during a production at the government-run Culture Palace in Beni Suef, a farming town of 200,000 about 60 miles south of Cairo.

- From wire reports