Putin puts name on PM ticket

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin, in a surprise announcement, opened the door Monday to becoming Russia's prime minister and retaining power when his presidential term ends next year.

The popular Putin is barred from seeking a third consecutive term in the March presidential election, but has strongly indicated he would seek to keep a hand on Russia's reins after he steps down.

Putin's remarks Monday at a congress of the dominant, Kremlin-controlled United Russia party hint at a clear scenario in which he could remake himself as a powerful prime minister and eclipse a weakened president.

Iraqi deaths fall by 50 percent

BAGHDAD - The number of American troops and Iraqi civilians killed in the war fell in September to levels not seen in more than a year. The U.S. military said the lower count was at least partly a result of new strategies and 30,000 additional U.S. forces deployed this year.

Although it is difficult to draw conclusions from a single month's tally, the figures could suggest U.S.-led forces are making headway against extremist factions and disrupting their ability to strike back.

The U.S. military toll for September was 64, the lowest since July 2006, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press from death announcements by the American command and Pentagon.

Israel releases 57 prisoners

BEITUNIYA CHECKPOINT, West Bank - Greeted by throngs of jubilant well-wishers, 57 Palestinian prisoners got off buses Monday and kissed West Bank ground after Israel freed them in a goodwill gesture ahead of a U.S.-sponsored peace conference.

But the goodwill was tempered by Israeli plans to inaugurate a West Bank police headquarters in an area whose settlement has been blocked by the U.S., for fear it would complicate the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

U.S. offers $200K in new campaign

BAGRAM, Afghanistan - A new U.S. 'most-wanted' campaign is offering up to $200,000 for information on a dozen elusive Taliban and al-Qaida leaders fueling a rise in bombings and suicide attacks in Afghanistan.

In the south, meanwhile, militants hanged a teenager for having American money in his pocket and stuffed five $1 bills into his mouth as a warning not to use U.S. currency.

To help track down 12 insurgent commanders, posters and billboards are to go up around eastern Afghanistan with their names and pictures. Rewards ranging from $20,000 to $200,000 are available for information leading to their capture.

- From wire reports