Putin values Bush, fears expanding U.S. influence

Friday, December 24, 2004

MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he valued his partnership with President Bush but voiced suspicion that Washington might be behind what the Kremlin sees as efforts to isolate Russia -- and even destabilize it. With Russia already feeling hemmed in by U.S. bases in formerly Soviet Central Asia and U.S. military trainers in Georgia, Putin has taken issue with Western and particularly U.S. activism in Ukraine, where the presidential election that sparked a monthlong crisis goes into a third round this weekend. His emotions came boiling to the surface during a three-hour Kremlin news conference, during which he took questions from 51 journalists.

Gunmen kills 23 in attack on bus in Honduras

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras -- Gunmen opened fire on a public bus in northern Honduras late Thursday, killing at least 23 passengers and wounding 16 others, police said. The shooting took place in the northern Atlantic city of Chamelecon, 125 miles north of the capital, Tegucigalpa, said police spokesman, deputy commissioner Wilmer Torres. The bus was driving through the heavily populated neighborhood of San Isidro when a car carrying an unknown number of armed attackers cut in front of it and other assailants fired from behind the bus, Torres said. He said officials did not yet know how many people were aboard the bus.

West Bank election tests strength of Islamic party

JERICHO, West Bank -- Thousands of voters overwhelmed polling stations in scattered West Bank towns and villages on Thursday as Palestinians enthusiastically voted in their first local elections in nearly three decades. The polls gave Palestinians in 26 small communities a democratic dry run ahead of Jan. 9 elections to replace Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestinian Authority. They also marked the first head-to-head electoral matchup between the ruling Fatah Party and the Islamic Hamas organization. However, many voters said they were not interested in party affiliations, preferring to vote on local issues and, in some cases, clan loyalties.

Candidate favoring Puerto Rico's status quo wins

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rico's congressional envoy who favors the island's status as a U.S. territory narrowly won a recount in the governor's race, election officials announced Thursday. Anibal Acevedo Vila of the Popular Democratic Party garnered 961,512 votes compared to 958,328 Pedro Rossello, who was governor from 1993-2001 and favors statehood for the Caribbean island. Officials said they will not certify the result until next week because about 2,000 votes from three ballot boxes in a San Juan suburb have yet to be counted. The number of votes, however, will not affect the outcome.

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