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Karzai seeks Saudi help for talks with Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan: Afghanistan's president said yesterday that he has repeatedly asked Saudi Arabia's king to facilitate peace talks with the Taliban. Hamid Karzai said Afghan officials have traveled to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in hopes of ending his country's six-year conflict but there have not been any negotiations so far. Saudi Arabia is a leader of the Sunni Muslim world and the location of Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. It was one of a handful of countries that recognized the strictly Islamic Taliban as rulers of Afghanistan in the 1990s.

U.S. to investigate fatal police shootings

NEW ORLEANS: Federal officials will investigate the New Orleans police officers involved in fatal shootings that happened on a city bridge after Hurricane Katrina, authorities said yesterday. The announcement comes a little more than a month after the dismissal of state charges against seven New Orleans police officers accused of gunning down several people on the Danziger Bridge in the chaotic aftermath of Katrina, killing two men. Police officials have acknowledged that the officers shot people from both sides of the bridge but said the officers were shot at first.

Somali pirates deny fatalities in shootout

MOGADISHU, Somalia: Somali pirates said yesterday that they celebrated a Muslim holiday aboard a hijacked freighter and denied reports that three comrades were killed in a shootout on the vessel, which is being closely watched by a half-dozen U.S. warships. The hijacking of the MV Faina - laden with 33 Soviet-made T-72 tanks, rifles and heavy weapons that U.S. defense officials have said included rocket launchers - was the highest-profile act of piracy in the dangerous waters this year. The pirates are demanding $20 million in ransom for the ship, which they boarded Thursday in the Indian Ocean off the Somali coast.

Friend testifies he gave gifts to Alaska senator

WASHINGTON: Bill Allen, a longtime friend of Sen. Ted Stevens, testified yesterday that he gave the Alaska Republican thousands of dollars in gifts. Stevens, 84, is on trial for failing to disclose about $250,000 in gifts and favors on Senate financial documents. At the heart of the case is a large home renovation project that Allen helped with. The senator says he never asked Allen for any free work and says he paid little attention to the project that his wife oversaw. Allen spent 90 minutes on the stand yesterday and was expected to spend most of today discussing the house project. Prosecutors said they could rest their case as soon as tomorrow. Stevens would begin presenting his defense Monday.

Bloomberg to seek 3rd term as N.Y. mayor

NEW YORK: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg plans to announce tomorrow that he will seek a third term as mayor, according to four people who have been told of his plans. Bloomberg, whose second term ends in 2009, is barred by law from running for re-election. So he will propose revising the city's 15-year-old term-limits law, which restricts him and dozens of elected leaders to two-four year terms, those people said. In his appearance tomorrow, Bloomberg, a former Wall Street trader and the founder of a billion-dollar financial data firm, will argue that the worldwide financial crisis - and its potentially severe impact on New York City - demands his steady hand and business experience.

Gas lines shorter in hard-hit Atlanta

ATLANTA: Lines eased somewhat yesterday in Atlanta, the largest city hit by a hurricane-induced gas shortage in the Southeast, as Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue waited for a White House answer to his request to release a "significant amount" of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help ease the shortage. Yesterday, Perdue also made it easier for gas to be delivered by temporarily allowing suppliers without a state motor fuel license to sell gas in Georgia. The gas shortage has created long lines at stations and frustrated drivers around the Southeast, hitting particularly hard in the Atlanta area, Nashville, Tenn., and western North Carolina. The average price for regular gas yesterday was $3.93 per gallon in Georgia, 30 cents higher than the national average, according to the AAA.

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