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Iraq's three-man Presidential Council endorsed the critical status-of-forces agreement Thursday, the last governmental hurdle for the timetable that calls for withdrawal of American troops by Jan. 1, 2012. The deal replaces the UN mandate for foreign forces in Iraq, which expires this month. In a concession to Sunni members of Parliament, the government agreed to give voters a say on the plan in a national referendum next year, although it already will be in effect by then.

Central banks of both the European Union and Britain cut interest rates Thursday – the latter to 2 percent, a level last seen 57 years ago – to try to stave off prolonged recession. The European bank's 2.5 percent cut was the deepest since it began functioning a decade ago. On the commercial banking front, however, troubled Credit Suisse announced it will lay off another 5,300 employees on top of the 1,800 already let go this year.

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