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By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn / February 23, 2009



Exit routes for armored personnel carriers and other US heavy weapons deployed in Iraq over the past six years are being "tested" for their effectiveness, senior Army and Marine Corps spokesmen said over the weekend. They said convoys have been carrying battlefield equipment through Kuwait and Jordan and that routes through Turkey also are being studied. Under the status of forces agreement signed by Iraq and the Bush administration, the US withdrawal is to be completed by the end of 2011, But new President Obama pledged during his campaign to have American forces out within 16 months of his inauguration.

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With Russian dignitaries attending, Iran will hold a ceremony to "precommission" its Bushehr nuclear power plant this week, the official IRNA news agency said Sunday. Russia helped to build the plant, trained 700 engineers to operate it, and supplied it with fuel, but insists that it cannot be used in the development of weapons. Still, analysts said, the startup of Bushehr is likely to dismay the US, Israel, and some European governments, which are deeply suspicious of Iran's intentions.

A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed and government troops were patroling a northern Nigerian city after weekend fighting between Muslims and Christians killed at least five people; seriously injured 28 others; and left churches, mosques, and private homes in flames. Reports said the violence in Bauchi began when Muslims arriving for Friday prayers found their parking area blocked and sought to leave their cars at a nearby church instead. Muslim-Christian riots last November killed more than 300 people in the nearby city of Jos.

A new antigovernment protest was canceled Sunday in Madagascar's capital after President Marc Ravalomanana and opposition leader Andry Rajoelina agreed to a five-point strategy to calm tensions. Among the measures: making no more "provocative" statements to news outlets and an end to "arrests of a political nature." The rivals are expected to meet again Monday.

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