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Blair Expected to Announce Bristish Troop Withdrawal From Iraq


BRITAIN-IRAQ: British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to announce today (Wednesday) a timetable for British troops to start withdrawing from Iraq. British media reports say Mr. Blair is to announce that 15-hundred soldiers may start pulling out of Iraq within a few weeks and another 15-hundred by the end of the year. The prime minister's office declined to comment on the reports. But in Washington, a White House spokesman (Gordon Johndroe) said President Bush and Mr. Blair spoke by telephone Tuesday to discuss the troop withdrawal.

IRAQ: Iraqi police say a car bomb blast in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf has killed at least 11 people and wounded dozens more.
Police say the blast occurred this (Wednesday) morning near a police checkpoint in the center of the city, about 160-kilometers south of Baghdad.
Najaf is home to the mausoleum of Imam Ali, the holiest site in Shi'ite Islam, and the offices of many leading Shi'ite clerics in Iraq.

US-Mideast: Top diplomats from the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States -- the international quartet for Middle East peace -- convene in Berlin today (Wednesday) to find a way to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The session follows a visit to the region by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who held a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on Monday. After that meeting, Rice reported no breakthroughs. Mr. Abbas says his talks with Rice and Mr. Olmert were tense but not a failure.

INDIA-PAKISTAN : The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan have signed an agreement in New Delhi to reduce the risk of accidents involving their nuclear weapons arsenals. The signing of the deal followed talks today (Wednesday) between India's Pranab Mukherjee and his Pakistani counterpart, Khursheed Kasuri in the Indian capital. The two foreign ministers met in the shadow of Sunday's bombing that killed 68 people on a train bound from New Delhi to the Pakistani city of Lahore.

PHILIPPINES KILLINGS : A United Nations envoy investigating hundreds of political killings in the Philippines says the armed forces appear to be responsible for a significant number of the deaths. The U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Philip Alston, says the armed forces are in a state of "almost total denial" about killings "convincingly attributed" to them. He spoke today (Wednesday) in the Philippine capital, Manila, following a 10-day investigation. Alston said he could not confirm the exact number of killings.

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