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US Senate to Vote on Iraq Spending Bill with Withdrawal Timeline


US-IRAQ FUNDING: The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected today (Thursday) to pass a 124 billion dollar military funding bill that would require President Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq by October first. The House of Representatives approved the measure late Wednesday by a vote of 218 to 208. The bill includes about 95 billion dollars for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but sets a non-binding goal of removing most U.S. troops from Iraq by April 2008. The legislation also creates benchmarks for the Iraqi government to show progress in securing the country.

IRAQ: Iraqi police say a suicide car bomber has rammed his vehicle into an Iraqi army checkpoint north of Baghdad, killing nine soldiers. Police say 15 other people, including several civilians, were wounded in today's (Thursday's) attack in the town of Khalis in Diyala province. In northern Iraq, three bombings in a town near the city of Mosul killed at least three people and wounded 13.

IRAN NUCLEAR: Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani says the European Union and Iran are closer to "a united view" on how to break the deadlock over Iran's nuclear program. Larijani made the remark before today's (Thursday's) meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana in Ankara, Turkey. The Iranian envoy said he believes the two sides are aiming to reach "a common paradigm" to try resolve the nuclear dispute through negotiations.

RUSSIA-PUTIN: Russian President Vladimir Putin is delivering his eighth annual state-of-the-nation address at the Kremlin. The Russian president is outlining his domestic and foreign policy agendas for the year ahead to both houses of parliament and other government officials. The speech was postponed by a day due to Wednesday's funeral for former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who hand-picked Mr. Putin as his successor.

BURMA-NOKOR: Burma's deputy foreign minister says his country has re-established diplomatic relations with North Korea. Kyaw Thu made the announcement today (Thursday) after talks with his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong Il in Rangoon. Kim and three other North Korean officials arrived in Burma Wednesday. Few details have emerged about the trip. The two reclusive governments severed diplomatic relations in 1983 following a bomb attack on South Korean government officials who were visiting Rangoon.

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