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Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was authorized by his cabinet to reopen discussions with the US on the vital status-of-forces pact. A spokesman said "essential amendments" to the deal were proposed by some cabinet ministers, although not all would be subject to negotiation. If approved by parliament, the agreement would keep American forces in Iraq through 2011. If legislators don't OK it by Dec. 31, there would be no legal basis for the US to continue operating there.

An American school and cultural center in Damascus were ordered closed by Syria's government after reports that a US air raid on a border village last weekend killed an Al Qaeda operative known to be funneling militants into Iraq. Syria has said eight civilians also died in the raid. The Bush administration hasn't confirmed what would be the first US military strike inside Syria since the Iraq war began in 2003. Iraq's government joined in condemning the raid Tuesday, saying its soil is not to be used for attacks on neighbors.

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