6,000 Sunnis join security pact with U.S.

HAWIJA, Iraq - Nearly 6,000 Sunni Arab residents joined a security pact with American forces Wednesday in what U.S. officers described as a critical step in plugging the remaining escape routes for extremists flushed from former strongholds.

The new alliance - called the single largest single volunteer mobilization since the war began - covers the 'last gateway' for groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq seeking new havens in northern Iraq, U.S. military officials said.

Three arrested trying to sell radioactive material for $1M

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia - Three people have been arrested for trying to sell more than two pounds of an unspecified radioactive material, which officials then seized, police said Wednesday.

Specialists were examining the material, which the three were trying to sell for $1 million, said police spokesman Martin Korch.

Two of the suspects were arrested in eastern Slovakia, the other in Hungary, he said.

Leader turned Pakistan into key Western ally

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pervez Musharraf ended an army career Wednesday that saw him go to the cusp of war with India and seize power in a coup, then find a lifeline in the calamity of Sept. 11 to turn Pakistan from a pariah into a vital ally of the West.

Musharraf's image has taken a beating since he declared a state of emergency Nov. 3. Pakistan's revitalized opposition could yet wreck his plan to stay on as a civilian president.

Islamic militants entrenched along the Afghan border, where Osama bin Laden may be hiding, have defied his U.S.-urged efforts to dislodge them.

Former Japanese defense chief arrested in contract scandal

TOKYO - A former top Japanese defense bureaucrat and his wife were arrested Wednesday on suspicion they accepted lavish gifts from companies - including one linked to General Electric - in exchange for contracts, officials said.

The bribery scandal also implicates the current finance minister who twice served as defense minister.

The scandal has hobbled the two-month-old government of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, including its effort to renew Japan's anti-terrorism naval mission in support of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. Japanese ships returned earlier this week from the Indian Ocean, ending a six-year mission after opposition parties blocked an extension.