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Obama Orders 30,000 Troops to Afghanistan; Withdrawal to Begin July 2011


US - AFGHANISTAN: U.S. President Barack Obama is sending 30,000 more American troops to fight Taliban and al-Qaida extremists in Afghanistan, and says he plans to start withdrawing U.S. forces from the South Asian country in about 20 months. Mr. Obama told cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, Tuesday that the additional forces will help accelerate the transfer of responsibility for Afghanistan's security to Afghan forces and allow U.S. troops to begin leaving the country by July 2011. In a speech outlining the new war strategy, President Obama said that while Afghanistan is not lost, it has been moving backwards for several years.

US - AFGHANISTAN - REACTION: NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says NATO countries are throwing their support behind U.S. President Barack Obama's new Afghan strategy, and will send at least 5,000 more troops to fight insurgents in the war-torn country. The NATO chief said Wednesday in Brussels that all NATO countries must do more in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida if they truly want to make Afghanistan stable. Rasmussen pledged that NATO and its allies will strive to transition into a role where the Afghan people can take control of securing their country.

BRITAIN - IRAN: Iranian authorities have released five British yachtsmen who were detained last week in the Persian Gulf. A statement from Iran's Revolutionary Guards said that after investigation it reached the conclusion that their illegal entry was a mistake. Britain's Foreign Office confirmed the release and said the yachtsmen are being towed to international waters, and were expected to head to Dubai. Iranian naval forces detained the Britons on November 25th (last Wednesday) as they sailed from Bahrain to Dubai for a race.

US - IRAQ: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has reassured Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that U.S. strategy in Afghanistan will not come at the expense of the U.S.-Iraq bilateral relationship. The White House issued a statement saying Biden spoke with Mr. Maliki by phone Tuesday to discuss U.S. President Barack Obama's decision on the way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Obama announced late Tuesday the deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan. Biden also commended the Iraqi prime minister's efforts to solve the impasse over the much-delayed Iraqi electoral law.

HONDURAS: Honduran lawmakers are scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to reinstate ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya until his term ends in January. The move is the latest twist in a five-month crisis that has rattled the country since Mr. Zelaya was deposed in a military-backed coup. He returned to Honduras in September and has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy under the threat of arrest. It appears unlikely that the vote will go in his favor since the same lawmakers also voted for his ouster. However, some see Mr. Zelaya's reinstatement as a way of adding legitimacy to the country's new leader who was elected earlier this week.

AUSTRALIA - CLIMATE: Australia's parliament has rejected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's climate-change bill that would have cut Australia's carbon pollution by up to 25 percent by the year 2020. The Senate voted against the bill Wednesday by a count of 41 to 33. Earlier in the day, Australia's opposition elected a new leader, Tony Abbott, who vowed to reject the measure. The bill called for a tax on industrial carbon emissions, starting in 2011, to limit Australia's overall pollution. The vote, a blow to Mr. Rudd's Labor government, comes just before an important international climate-change summit in Denmark later this month.

CHINA FLU: China's Health Ministry official says the situation for H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, in the country remains severe with the total number of deaths from the virus leaping to 178. The new figure, which was released late Tuesday at a ministry press conference, is three times higher than any other official toll previously released in China. Liang Wannian, director of the ministry's emergency response office, says that up to the end of last month (November 29), China had seen more than 91,000 cases nationwide. Liang says that nearly 19,000 people were either being treated in the hospital or under quarantine at home.

PAKISTAN: Pakistani police say a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the entrance of the country's navy headquarters in Islamabad Wednesday, killing one security guard and wounding three others. Officials say the attacker walked up to a checkpoint at the entrance of the heavily-guarded complex and detonated his explosives when security forces stopped him. Insurgents in Pakistan have killed hundreds in bombings since military forces launched a major offensive in the South Waziristan tribal region two months ago.

Listen to our World News for details.

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