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Troops from Turkey killed 77 more Kurdish rebels in fighting Tuesday night in northern Iraq, their commander claimed, and the Foreign Ministry said "there is no timetable" for withdrawal "until these terrorist bases are eliminated." But US Defense Secretary Gates was en route to the Turkish capital Wednesday, where he was expected to tell the government that it must be mindful of Iraqi sovereignty and pull back its forces in a matter of days, "not months."

In a new setback for national reconciliation efforts, Iraq's three-man presidential council sent back to parliament a measure that would have organized provincial elections. Sections of it "contradict the Constitution," a spokesman said. The bill, which is considered critical, was bundled with two other unrelated measures to win passage on the final day of the legislative session, and even then succeeded by only one vote.

At Kofi Annan's request, the party of Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga put off "until further notice" a planned mass demonstration Thursday so the former UN secretary-general could make a final push for a power-sharing accord with the government. Annan was to meet separately with Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki, and African Union chief Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania arrived in Nairobi to add weight to the mediation efforts.

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