USA

President Bush will wrap up a four-day "listening tour" in Europe Thursday by meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bratislava, Slovakia. Cracks in Russia's rule of law and concerns about its troubled oil industry could be major talking points. In Washington, meanwhile, former US national security adviser Brent Scowcroft criticized the Bush administration for not paying enough attention to relations with Moscow. He cited Russia's decision to supply nuclear technology to Iran as a reason to pay closer attention. On Wednesday, Bush joined German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in insisting that Iran must not develop nuclear weapons.

Omar Abu Ali, who was raised in suburban Washington, was charged Tuesday in a Virginia courtroom with conspiring with Al Qaeda to assassinate Bush. Prosecutors said the plot was hatched while Abu Ali, a high school valedictorian, studied in Saudi Arabia in 2002 and 2003. Lawyers for the defendant expressed concern that the government's case may be based on evidence obtained through torture during a nearly two-year detainment by the Saudi government. They said their client will plead innocent.

The uproar over Washington State's disputed gubernatorial election took a new turn as Republicans unhappy with the outcome alleged that 1,108 felons voted illegally - 884 of them in Democrat-leaning King County. Christine Gregoire (D) was awarded the office after a recount by hand of 2.9 million ballots. Her margin of victory: 129 votes. Gregoire's supporters say backers of GOP candidate Dino Rossi don't have enough evidence to warrant nullifying the election.

Efforts to identify more than 1,100 victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks have ended, the medical examiner told the New York Daily News Wednesday. The identifies of about 1,600 of the 2,749 people who died in the attacks have been established.

About 80 percent of Americans say they'd vote for a woman for president, according to results of a poll by the Siena College Research Institute of Loudonville, N.Y. Respondents identified the most promising female candidates as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York (D) and Secretary of State Condolezza Rice for the GOP.

Major League Baseball slugger Barry Bonds angrily sidestepped questions about his role in the growing steroid scandal at a spring training news conference Tuesday in Scottsdale, Ariz. The San Francisco Giants outfielder, who is closing in on the sport's all-time home run record, cited legal reasons for not commenting on his grand jury testimony last December, when he said he unwittingly had used steroids.

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