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The US and Poland signed a deal Wednesday to station elements of a US missile-defense shield on Polish soil, a move certain to aggravate Russian-Western tensions over Moscow's intervention in Georgia. The site in Poland of 10 interceptor rockets will form part of a global system Washington is assembling to shoot down ballistic missiles it believes could be launched by "rogue" states or militant groups like Al Qaeda. Above, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Poland's Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski shake hands after inking the pact in Warsaw.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has no regrets about sending 700 more troops to Afghanistan this year, he told French troops at a base near Kabul Wednesday after 10 French soldiers were killed earlier this week when ambushed by Taliban insurgents. The attack resulted in the biggest single loss for foreign forces in Afghan combat since 2001.

Armed pirates seized a Malaysian palm-oil tanker with 39 crew off the coast of Somalia, the fourth hijacking in a month, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. Once the ship enters Somali waters, pirates are expected to demand ransom for the release of the vessel and the crew.

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About 40 Russian military trucks crossed over the border into Russia from Georgia on Wednesday, but there was no sign of Russian armor exiting the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia. The Red Cross said it is sending workers to the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali for the first time since the brief Russian-Georgian conflict broke out earlier this month, Above, South Ossetians waited to receive gas in Tskhinvali.

Fuad Saniora, Lebanon's prime minister, traveled to Baghdad Wednesday in only the third such visit by a top Arab leader since the US-led invasion 5-1/2 years ago. He called the trip an opportunity to renew contact after a decade of chilly relations between Beirut and Baghdad. The countries will sign several new agreements soon, including one for Iraq to export oil to Lebanon.

China will spend more than $11 billion to restore its tourism industry in the southwestern province of Sichuan, which was devastated by the May 12 earthquake, the official Xinhua news agency said Wednesday. The province, known for its pandas and fiery cuisine, has been struggling to rebuild.

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who skipped bail last week in a corruption case and flew to London, plans to seek political asylum in Britain, his lawyer said Wednesday. About 10,000 anti-Thaksin protesters marched to the British Embassy in Bangkok Tuesday to demand that London return the exiled politician.

During an intensified government crackdown as the Olympics wind down, Chinese authorities detained five American blogger-activists and a foreign artist involved in pro-Tibetan protests, rights groups said Wednesday. Meanwhile, custom officials returned more than 300 Bibles confiscated from a group of American Christians as they left from Beijing's airport.

Palestinians plan a hero's welcome Friday for Said Atba, who is being released from Israeli prison after spending 32 years in jail for sending militant cells into Israel. Atba is among 199 Palestinian prisoners being freed by Israel in a goodwill gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The US offered to help Pakistanis Wednesday displaced by an army operation against Islamic militants in a northwest tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have said more than 200,000 have fled the Bajur tribal region, the primary focus of the two-week-old offensive, and the neighboring Mohmand tribal area. Many have landed in relief camps set up by the government and political parties.

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