First lady Laura Bush praised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for his leadership as she finished her Middle East tour on Tuesday. During her visit, Mrs. Bush encouraged Egyptian women to continue working for gender equality, education, and peace. Egyptians vote Wednesday on a referendum that would amend the Constitution to allow for the country's first ever multi-candidate presidential election.

Taiwan sent coast guard ships and a helicopter to shadow a Chinese research vessel that it said intruded into its waters in the Taiwan Strait, the second such incident in a month, an official said on Tuesday. The Taiwanese Coast Guard Administration is calling the incursions a "serious violation of our sea jurisdiction."

NATO moved closer on Tuesday to approving noncombat aid for the African Union peacekeeping force in the Sudanese region of Darfur. The alliance's North Atlantic Council approved the "initial military options" for NATO support of the mission. The council indicated that efforts would center on military transport, training, and planning. More than 200,000 civilians have been killed in the region since 2003.

Iran's hard-line Guardian Council reversed its ban on two reformist presidential candidates on Tuesday, defusing a situation that had sparked calls for a vote boycott. The decision came after Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had urged the Guardian Council to reconsider the bans on Mostafa Moin and Mohsen Mehralizadeh in the interest of giving voters a broad range of choices.

Violence continued unabated in Baghdad, where three US soldiers were killed Tuesday when a car bomb exploded next to their convoy. An attack near a junior high school for girls in the area also killed six people.

Syria has cut off military and intelligence cooperation with the United States, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Syria severed links with the CIA and US military forces in response to US allegations that the Syrian government was not doing enough to stop the flow of weapons, men, and money to the insurgency in Iraq.

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