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US Senate Passes Iraq Spending Bill With Withdrawal Timeline


US - IRAQ FUNDING: The U.S. Senate has passed a war funding bill that sets a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq starting in October, despite a veto threat from President Bush. The 51-46 vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate was cast largely along party lines. The legislation sets a non-binding goal of withdrawing most U.S. combat troops from Iraq by April of next year. It also sets benchmarks for Iraq's government to show progress in securing the country.

US - DEMOCRATS - DEBATE: Eight Democratic presidential candidates have sharply criticized President Bush's Iraq war policy during the first debate of the 2008 campaign. The candidates also discussed differing views on health care, and U.S. foreign policy in the debate Thursday at a university in South Carolina. But they were unanimous in calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq during the nationally televised event.

JAPAN - US: U.S. President George Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are holding talks today at the U.S. presidential retreat outside Washington (Camp David), where North Korea's nuclear program is expected to be a main topic. Mr. Abe arrived in the United States on Thursday, his first visit to the country since taking office last year. He had an informal dinner with Mr. Bush at the White House.

ESTONIA - RUSSIA: The Estonian government has removed a controversial Soviet World War Two memorial from central Tallinn following violent protests that left one person dead. A government statement today says the statue known as the "Bronze Soldier" was relocated from the capital overnight to avoid further violence. Estonian authorities say they are keeping the monument's whereabouts secret. Russian news reports quote Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying today Moscow would "take serious measures" against Estonia.

CHINA - FOREIGN MINISTER: China has announced it is replacing Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing with its former ambassador to the United States, Yang Jiechi. The state-run Xinhua news agency did not provide a specific reason for the change. But it did say China's minister-level officials usually retire at age 65. Now 66-years-old, Li served as China's foreign minister since 2003. Yang was China's ambassador to the United States from 2001 until 2005.

SOKOR - US - BEEF: U.S. beef imports have won approval for sale in South Korean restaurants, after a more than three-year absence. South Korean beef importers said today that no bone fragments were discovered in the latest shipment of U.S. beef. South Korea only allows boneless American beef imports from cattle younger than 30 months old. South Korea, Japan and other countries banned American beef in 2003 after an outbreak of mad cow disease in the United States.

CHINA - US - TIBET: China's foreign ministry says it is expelling five Americans over their protest at the base of Mount Everest. Earlier this week, the group staged a demonstration for Tibetan independence and against China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics A Tibetan rights group says the group unfurled a banner that read "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008." "One World, One Dream" is the slogan of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

THAILAND - NOKOR: Humanitarian workers say more than 400 North Korean refugees being held at a detention center in Thailand have ended a hunger strike staged to protest delays to their resettlement in South Korea. Aid workers and Thai authorities say the group ended its three-day strike Thursday night after receiving promises they would soon be flown to South Korea. Some of the North Koreans have been detained for as long as three months.

RUSSIA - HELLICOPTER: Russian officials say a military helicopter in the southern republic of Chechnya has crashed, killing at least 17 people. Russian news reports quote military officials as saying the Mi-8 helicopter appears to have been shot down by Chechen separatists today. They say the aircraft went down in the southern part of the war-torn North Caucasus republic during an operation against separatist militants.

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