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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Today's news in brief

Gathered from domestic and foreign newswire sources

Republicans in the House of Representatives yesterday changed their rules to allow Majority Leader Tom DeLay to keep his post even if a grand jury indicts him.

47 Iraqi political parties have announced they will boycott January's elections. Most of the parties are Sunni and connected to the Association of Muslim Scholars. But the group includes 8 Shiite parties, one Christian party, one communist party and the Iraqi Turkmen Front. Journalist Mazen Ghazi reports the parties issued a communique that charges the election does not speak for the Iraqi people as long as it is "imposed" by the US-backed interim government.

The U.S. death toll in Iraq has now topped 1200. November has already become the second deadliest month for US troops since the invasion was launched. So far nearly 100 troops have died this month.

Israel Radio is reporting that Elliot Abrams has become the leading candidate to become the next U.S. ambassador to Israel. Abrams is seen a strong backer of Ariel Sharon's government and is closely allied to the neo-conservative movement in Washington. In 1991 Abrams was indicted by the Iran-Contra special prosecutor for giving false testimony about his role in illicitly raising money for the contras, but he pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses. He was pardoned by President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Tony Blair's "shoulder to shoulder" support for America is rejected today by a majority of British people, who believe it is more important to have good relations with European countries. A poll by NOP for The Independent found that 64 per cent of people think that having good relations with Britain's European Union partners is more important than with the United States, while only 25 per cent believe the relationship with the US should take priority.

Cairo lodged a formal protest after the Israeli army killed three Egyptian border policemen by mistake, threatening to plunge their delicate diplomatic ties into crisis mode.

Fighters in Falluja are continuing to hold out in the face of massive firepower US forces are unleashing to try and seize overall control of the city. "Fierce resistance is still raging with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and machine guns against the US forces stationed on the outskirts of Falluja," an Iraqi journalist in the city, Fadil al-Badrani, said. Meanwhile, fighting flared on a number of fronts across the country. In Ramadi, west of Baghdad, clashes erupted on Wednesday evening between US soldiers and armed groups opposed to the US-led government, leaving seven people dead, according to hospital officials.

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