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President Bush moved on to the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia following lavish ceremonies in Moscow commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany 60 years ago. The Kremlin used the occasion to evoke imagery of the Soviet era following World War II despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to ease international concerns that he and his government are backtracking on democracy. In an address in Red Square, Putin said Russia stands for the right of all nations to choose their own way in the world. But Bush, in a meeting with Russian human rights activists and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, heard a litany of complaints about the difficulties they face because of Kremlin hostility.

A new offensive by US forces was under way in Iraq's most volatile province, and military spokesmen said it had resulted in the deaths of 75 terrorists in the first 24 hours. New Interior Minister Bayan Jabour also announced the capture of 40 others, one of whom he said was a senior terrorist leader. The offensive is in response to a relentless wave of bombings and shootings by terrorists that has killed at least 300 people in recent days, many of them in Iraqi security units.

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In a new sign of defiance against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, militants traded gunfire with his police in two West Bank towns: Tulkarm and Jenin. No casualties were reported, but analysts said the incidents were a setback to Abbas's efforts to put peacemaking with Israel on a more solid footing. Tulkarm is one of two towns handed over to Palestinian control by Israel in March under terms of their latest cease-fire, with the understanding that Abbas would crack down on lawlessness. The clash in Jenin was the second of its type in two days.

Twenty-three more Taliban rebels were killed in a gunfight with US marines in an opium-growing region of eastern Afghanistan, reports said. Two Americans also died. Taliban remnants have vowed to conduct a new offensive now that the winter snows have melted, but they have taken heavy casualties. Sixty-four were killed in clashes last week in two southern provinces despite repeated offers of amnesty from President Hamid Karzai if the Taliban stop fighting.


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