Bush praises

Putin in meeting

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine - After hearing scathing criticism of the U.S. and its foreign policy from his Russian counterpart for months, President Bush praised President Vladimir Putin for his truthfulness and frankness - a move that drew criticism from some Russia experts.

Coming on Monday at the end of Putin's brief visit to the Bush family compound on the rugged Maine coast, Bush's praise was evidence that Russia is once again considered a nation to be reckoned with by the White House.

But Bush's support for Putin drew puzzlement from Russia scholars, who say the Russian president is being rewarded for behavior that the West should be discouraging.

Disgraced Israeli

president still claims innocence

JERUSALEM - Disgraced Israeli President Moshe Katsav, forced from office in a deal that spared him rape charges and a possible prison term, was unapologetic Tuesday in his first interview since signing the plea bargain - an attitude that will likely fuel public outrage and might even torpedo the agreement.

Interviewed by Channel 2 TV two days after his resignation took effect, Katsav insisted he was innocent, portraying himself as victim of a campaign of incitement and saying that with the plea bargain, '90 percent of the charges were thrown in the trash.' His wife, Gila, stood at his side during the interview.

Group may have hatched bomb plot in Britain

LONDON - They had diverse backgrounds, coming from countries around the globe, but all shared youth and worked in medicine. They also had a common goal, authorities suspect: to bring havoc and death to the heart of Britain.

'A ... likely scenario is they were here together, they discovered that they shared some common ideology, and then they decided to act on this while here in the U.K.,' said Bob Ayres, a former U.S. intelligence officer now at London's Chatham House think tank.

Hamas steps up

pressure on

kidnappers

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Hamas gunmen on Tuesday took up positions around the stronghold of the group holding kidnapped British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent Alan Johnston, stepping up the pressure to secure his release.

Members of Hamas' 6,000-strong militia moved onto high-rise rooftops and deployed gunmen in streets in the Gaza City neighborhood of the Doghmush clan.

- From wire reports