2011-12-12 / World

WORLD/ NATION BRIEFS

NATO to end its Iraq training mission

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO says it will permanently shut down its military training mission in Iraq at the end of this month and withdraw all its soldiers from the country by Dec. 31.

Officials had said that talks on extending the eight-year mission were stalled over NATO’s request for legal immunity for the foreign trainers — an issue that earlier torpedoed plans to keep a residual U.S. military presence in the country.

A NATO statement today said the North Atlantic Council, the military alliance’s governing body, decided to end the training mission because “agreement on the extension of this successful program did not prove possible despite robust negotiations conducted over several weeks.”

NATO has about 130 advisers from 13 member nations and Ukraine in Iraq.

Obama, Iraq’s al-Maliki chart their next steps

WASHINGTON ( AP) — With the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq in its final days, President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki will meet at the White House today to discuss the next phase of the relationship between their countries.

They will have plenty to discuss.

The withdrawal of all American troops on Dec. 31 marks the end of a nearly nine-year war that has been deeply divisive in both the U.S. and Iraq. While Obama and al-Maliki have pledged to maintain strong ties, the contours of the partnership between Washington and Baghdad remain murky, especially with Iran eager to assert influence over neighboring Iraq. And serious questions remain about Iraq’s capacity to stabilize both its politics and security.

Yet the end of the war still marks a promise kept for Obama, one the White House is eager to promote. In addition to his meeting with al- Maliki, Obama will mark the milestone Wednesday when he speaks to troops at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg. And he thanked service members and their families for their sacrifices when he attended the annual Army-Navy football game Saturday.

As of late last week, the number of U.S. troops in Iraq had dwindled to about 8,000, down from 170,000 at the war’s peak in 2007.

Billionaire tycoon eyes Russian presidency

MOSCOW (AP) — Mikhail Prokhorov, one of Russia’s richest tycoons and New Jersey Nets basketball team owner, says he will challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in next March’s presidential election.

While he was cautious not to cross Putin’s path in the past, Prokhorov may pose a serious challenge to Putin, whose authority has been dented by the Dec. 4 parliamentary election and massive protests against vote fraud.

Putin’s hand has been weakened by a significant drop of support for his party in the parliamentary vote. Tens of thousands rallied Saturday to protest vote-rigging and protest Putin’s rule.

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