MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin won a key victory at a European Union summit Wednesday with a promise that his country will formally be recognized as a market economy.
That recognition is a vital preliminary step in Russia's seven-year bid to join the World Trade Organization and will boost Russia's access to world markets.
Putin failed to win a similar pledge from President Bush during their meeting last week to sign a nuclear-arms reduction treaty.
Russian officials are lobbying hard for EU support for Moscow's bid to join the WTO. Since China's accession, Russia is the largest world economy still outside the organization.
Venezuelan coup figurehead leaves for asylum in Colombia
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Pedro Carmona, figurehead of a coup that briefly ousted President Hugo Chavez, left Venezuela for political asylum in Colombia on Wednesday.
Carmona left Caracas on a Colombian military plane from the Simon Bolivar International airport after Venezuela formally granted him safe conduct out of the country, said the airport's director, retired army Capt. Jose Vielma Mora. The 60-year-old businessman faces rebellion charges in Venezuela but was granted diplomatic asylum by Colombia on Sunday.
Chavez announced Monday that he would abide by the decision -- though he labeled Carmona a fugitive of Venezuelan law.
Carmona denies conspiring to overthrow the government. He insists he accepted the presidency on April 12 because he believed rebel generals' claims that Chavez had resigned.
British troops start operation to block al-Qaida, Taliban return
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) -- British troops have deployed near the Pakistani border to stop al-Qaida and Taliban fighters from returning to Afghanistan, U.S. and British officials said Wednesday.
The mission, named Operation Buzzard, will last for several weeks -- longer than past sweeps -- and comes at a time when Pakistan appears to be preparing to withdraw troops patrolling its side of the border because of its tensions with India.
Coalition officials have warned that al-Qaida and Taliban fighters sneaking across the border may attempt to launch insurgency attacks, including suicide bombings, to disrupt the June 10-15 meeting by the loya jirga, or grand council, to choose a transitional government for Afghanistan.
U.S. offers reward for capture of Philippine extremist kidnappers
MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- The U.S. government offered a reward of up to $5 million Wednesday for the capture of leaders of a Philippine Muslim extremist group that kidnapped two Americans and killed another.
U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone said that the reward is for any or all of five leaders of the Abu Sayyaf, including Abu Sabaya, who is accused of masterminding a raid last May on a southwestern resort, when the group kidnapped the three Americans and 17 Filipinos.
"We believe that ordinary citizens of the Philippines and elsewhere may have the information that can help bring the Abu Sayyaf terrorists to justice," Ricciardone said.
Italian police say recordings reveal predictions of Sept. 11
MILAN, Italy (AP) -- Recorded conversations between a Muslim cleric from Yemen and the leader of a Milan mosque reveal what police said are predictions of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, including a boast of a "terrifying" operation by "a madman," according to a newspaper report.
Excerpts of the conversations, which took place in 2000 and early 2001, ran in Tuesday's editions of Milan daily Corriere della Sera.
The conversations were between Abdulsalam Abdulrahman, the sheik, who had traveled to Italy, and Abdelkader Mahmoud Es Sayed, who fled Italy two months before the attacks.
JFK's PT boat found
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Shipwreck hunter Robert Ballard said Wednesday he has found the World War II patrol boat commanded by John F. Kennedy in the Pacific Ocean off the Solomon Islands.
The remains of the wooden boat, PT 109, were lying on the seabed in the Blanket Strait near Gizo in the New Georgia group of islands, Ballard told Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Gizo is 235 miles northwest of the capital of the Solomons, Honiara.
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