USA

Seeking to quell mounting international outrage over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war, President Bush stopped short of apologizing but called the action of some US military personnel "abhorrent" in an interview with Al-Hurra, a US-government-funded Arabic-language TV station. "The American people are just as appalled" as Iraqis, Bush said, over images broadcast around the world of naked detainees and their gloating American guards. The interview was the first of two planned with Arab media outlets. On Tuesday, White House officials disclosed that Bush was made aware as long ago as late December of allegations of mistreatment at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the new US detention chief in Iraq, said the military plans a major reduction in the number of detainees at the overcrowded facility and that it has embarked on a plan to eliminate abuses.

Because of the recent spate of violence by resisters, the Pentagon announced it will maintain the US troop strength in Iraq at about 135,000 through the end of 2005. The decision, announced Tuesday, calls for 20,000 soliders to ship out to Iraq in the coming months to replace those who are being kept on as long as three months past their normal one-year tours of duty.

Former vice president Gore said he is joining a group of investors who are buying Newsworld International, a cable-TV channel from French multimedia giant Vivendi Universal. The purchase price was not disclosed. Gore said the channel is aimed at viewers in their 20s and that his group does not see its venture as political in nature.

Delegates to a national meeting of Methodists in Pittsburgh voted down resolutions aimed at signaling a broader acceptance of homosexuals in the church. Evangelicals, in particular, are intent on opposing the direction of a church jury that in March acquitted the Rev. Karen Dammann, a lesbian, of practices contrary to Christianity as taught by the church. On Tuesday, the Judicial Court of the church said it had no authority to review the acquittal but ruled that in the future bishops may not legally appoint someone found at trial to be an avowed homosexual.

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