China blankets restive Tibetan areas with troops

ZHONGDIAN, China - China blanketed restive Tibetan areas Thursday with a huge buildup of troops, turning small towns across a

wide swath of western China into armed encampments.

Beijing acknowledged that last week's anti-government protests had spread far beyond Tibet's borders and that police opened fire on protesters. It warned foreign tourists and journalists to stay away from a huge expanse of territory across four provinces.

In an overture of peace, the Dalai Lama offered to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other leaders, reiterating that he was not asking for Tibetan independence.

Bin Laden says pope is leading anti-Islam crusade

CAIRO, Egypt - Osama bin Laden accused Pope Benedict XVI of helping in a 'new Crusade' against Islam and warned of a 'severe' reaction to European publications of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that insulted many Muslims.

Bin Laden's audiotape message Wednesday raised concerns al-Qaida was plotting new attacks in Europe. Some experts said bin Laden, believed to be in hiding in the Afghan-Pakistan border area, may be unable to organize an attack himself and instead is trying to fan anger and inspire his supporters to violence.

Pope leads Holy Thursday service

ROME - Pope Benedict XVI washed the feet of a dozen priests in a Holy Thursday ceremony to symbolize humility and he urged people to set aside any rancor toward others.

There was no noticeable increase in Vatican security - already heavy for the pontiff's public appearances - after the release of an audiotape in which Osama bin Laden accuses the pope of helping in a 'new Crusade' against Islam.

Holy Week culminates in an Easter vigil Mass Saturday night in St. Peter's Basilica and Mass on Easter morning in St. Peter's Square.

Israeli workers find money in sewage plant

JERUSALEM - Something didn't smell quite right with a pile of cash discovered Thursday at a sewage purification plant in northern Israel.

Shocked workers at the Tiberias plant found about 7,000 shekels ($2,000) of the dirty money, all in 200 shekel bills among the smelly sewage. Israeli TV showed the bills sticking out of sewage and stuck in pipes. The bills were cut in half.