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Iraq will insist on a specific timetable for withdrawal of coalition forces before signing any accord on security with the US, a senior government official said Tuesday. National Security Adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie's remarks went even further than those of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who said Monday that he expected "some type" of schedule for a pullout. President Bush has said he opposes a timetable. To date, the US has handed control in nine of Iraq's 18 provinces to government forces.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed an agreement Tuesday in Prague to base the radar portion of a proposed US missile defense system in the Czech Republic. But she appeared to rule out a stop in neighboring Poland, whose leaders have yet to agree on basing another part of the system there.

The US "has lost its fame" under Bush, and Israel will collapse without any interference from Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday, adding, "I assure you, there won't be any war [with either nation] in the future." Ahmadinejad spoke a day after Iran's Revolutionary Guard warned that Israel and US naval units in the Persian Gulf would be "set on fire" in the event either tried to launch a preemptive attack.

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Six-way negotiations on North Korea's nuclear program – on hold since last October – are to resume Thursday in Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry said. The announcement came almost two weeks after the North submitted a partial and long-overdue dossier on the extent of its nuclear activities. The three days of talks are expected to dwell on verification measures for the activities documented by the North.

With less than a month to go until the Olympic Summer Games open in Beijing, the city's air quality still falls far short of the standards promised by China, the BBC reported Tuesday. Despite stringent antipollution measures imposed by the government, the air failed to meet levels set by the World Health Organization on six days out of seven, the broadcaster said – once registering seven times above the standard.

Islamist militants claimed responsibility for an assault on Baidoa, the longtime base of Somalia's transitional government. Two soldiers died and at least seven other people were wounded in the fighting Monday night, which a spokesman for the militants said was "a signal that Baidoa is no longer safe." The attack was the first there since late 2006.

Leaders of the breakaway province of Abkhazia said Tuesday they're "ending all contacts with Georgia due to [its] policy of state terrorism." They called on the Group of Eight meeting in Japan to prevent further attacks by Georgia, which they blame for a string of explosions last weekend that killed four people. But they rejected a Bush administration proposal to deploy an international police force there, accusing the US of being "unilaterally pro-Georgian."

Siemens, the German industrial giant, confirmed reports Tuesday that it will cut 16,750 jobs, or 4.2 percent of its global workforce. Citing a slowing economy, chief executive Peter Loescher said, "We have to become more efficient." The company makes products ranging from light bulbs to high-speed trains.

Nationalists in Switzerland have collected enough signatures to force a referendum on banning construction of minarets on Islamic places of worship, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. Supporters say they seek to stop the spread of Muslim political influence. If the initiative passes, parliament will be required to amend the Constitution accordingly. No date for the vote was announced immediately.

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