Russia to send warship through Panama Canal

PANAMA CITY, Panama - Russia said Wednesday it is sending a warship through the Panama Canal for the first time since World War II, a short journey loaded with symbolic weight: the destroyer will dock at a former U.S. naval base, showcasing Russia's growing influence in the region.

Russia appears to be relishing the idea of stopping at what was long a symbol of U.S. global power; the Russian Navy announced it would visit 'the Rodman naval base' - a name that the host nation, Panama, has not used since taking over the base from the United States in 1999.

The destroyer Admiral Chabanenko is scheduled to enter the Panama Canal on Friday morning and arrive late in the day at what Panama calls the Balboa Naval Base.

Passengers of ship describe pirate attack

MUSCAT, Oman - Ordered to get inside and stay down, Oregon tourist Clyde Thornburg heard the pirates' rifle shots hit the side of the luxury cruise liner - 'Pop! Pop! Pop!' - then felt the ship speed up to escape.

At this port north of the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, passengers told The Associated Press on Wednesday they had been warned of the danger even before they embarked, and the crew used a device that blasted painful high-decibel sound waves to keep the marauders at bay.

The attack on the nearly 600-foot-long cruise ship in the dangerous waters between Yemen and Somalia was the latest evidence pirates have grown more brazen, viewing almost any vessel as a potential target - even a large luxury liner with hundreds of tourists on board.

US commander: Attacks at lowest level since 2003

BAGHDAD - Attacks fell in November to their lowest monthly level since the Iraq war began in 2003, despite recent high-profile bombings aimed at shaking public confidence, a top U.S. commander said Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, the No. 2 U.S. commander here, blamed al-Qaida in Iraq for a spate of bombings that has killed nearly 50 people in Baghdad and elsewhere since Monday. The blasts took place despite an 80 percent drop in attacks nationwide since March, Austin said.

At least 33 people were killed and dozens wounded in multiple bombings Monday against Iraqi security forces in Baghdad and Mosul.

Thai crisis defused, but dangers ahead

BANGKOK, Thailand - Flights in and out of Bangkok resumed Wednesday after anti-government protests that paralyzed the capital's international airport for more than a week ended with the peaceful ouster of the prime minister.

But most of the explosive issues that have divided the country for more than two years remained unresolved and long-term prospects for stability were dim.

'It is nothing more than an intermission. It is not over until the two sides of the political spectrum can reconcile and the prospect of that happening is very bleak,' said Charnvit Kasetsiri, a historian and former rector of Bangkok's Thammasat University.

Rice demands Pakistan help in probe of attacks

NEW DELHI - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought Wednesday to refocus India and Pakistan on a common fight against terrorism and away from their mutual suspicions of one another, but neither country seemed willing to go along.

Rice made an emergency condolence visit to India a week after a coordinated terror assault on Western or financial targets in the Indian commercial capital of Mumbai. The attackers targeted symbols of the city's wealth, tourist appeal and Western outlook. Six Americans were among the 171 people who died.

Nations sign cluster-bomb ban

OSLO, Norway - An Afghan teenager who lost both legs in a cluster bomb explosion helped persuade his country to change its stance and join nearly 100 nations in signing a treaty Wednesday banning the disputed weapons.

Afghanistan was initially reluctant to join the pact - which the United States and Russia have refused to support - but agreed to after lobbying by victims maimed by cluster munitions, including 17-year-old Soraj Ghulan Habib. The teen, who uses a wheelchair, met with his country's ambassador to Norway, Jawed Ludin, at a two-day signing conference in Oslo.

- From wire reports