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To the dismay of the Bush administration, Turkey's parliament postponed debate until Saturday on the proposed deployment of US troops for war with Iraq. Although the plan calls for billions of dollars in US aid and has the approval of Prime Minister Abdullah Gul's government, the necessary action by lawmakers has been delayed twice this week. An unidentified US official said Turkey's leaders have been made aware "at a high level" that further delay "is not helpful."

Iraq's regime promised a response within 48 hours to the UN's order that it destroy its arsenal of missiles whose range exceeds the allowable limit. The word came as chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix sent a new 17-page report to the Security Council indicating that Iraq still has not shown "full cooperation" with resolutions ordering it to disarm.

Concerned political leaders in France were pressuring President Jacques Chirac not to veto a new UN resolution that would all but ensure war with Iraq. Warning that Chirac's staunch antiwar stance already has damaged relations with the US and jeopardized the future of the UN, they said a veto also risked a complete breakdown in relations with some of France's European neighbors.

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In a U-turn, Israeli political leader Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to take the finance minister's post in the cabinet of his rival, Ariel Sharon. Sources said Netanyahu, ousted as foreign minister on Wednesday, changed his mind about rejecting the lesser-ranking position after being granted wider authority over national economic policy. Israel is mired in a recession that has lasted more than two years.

Saying "leniency would be misplaced," the UN war crimes tribunal for the Balkans sentenced ex-Serb leader Biljana Plavsic to 11 years in prison for acts of the "utmost gravity" against non-Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. She is the highest-ranking politician from the former Yugoslavia to be penalized by the tribunal to date. Its trial of ex-President Slobodan Milosevic has yet to be concluded.

An estimated 70,000 Turkish Cypriots jammed the capital, Nicosia, to pressure their leaders to accept a revised UN plan for unification with the island's Greek community. The rally came as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was in intense negotiations to bring the two sides together before the European Union accepts Greek Cyprus in April. Turkish Cypriot leaders have been insisting on formal recognition of their enclave.

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