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Iraq's foreign minister said Sunday that his government and the US are "very close" to final agreement on a security deal that would determine how much longer American troops remain in his country. But Hoshyar Zebari would not discuss a timetable for withdrawal, except to say that Iraq insists that it be "very clear" if it is to win parliamentary approval. The UN mandate for stationing foreign troops in Iraq expires at year's end.

Opposition sources in Zimbabwe would not confirm reports that their side had reached "a common position" with President Robert Mugabe that would allow him to keep his post. But South African leader Thabo Mbeki, who is brokering negotiations between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, was seen in private meetings with each side, amid speculation that Mugabe would retain a ceremonial role. The Bloomberg news service reported that the talks have yielded one other development: a pledge by the MDC not to return farms seized from white owners by Mugabe's government.

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