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On an unannounced visit to Iraq, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed Wednesdaythat his nation's troops will be withdrawn "no later than May 31." This appeared to accelerate the timetable for a British pullout. Earlier, it had been anticipated by next summer. As Brown conferred with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad, two bomb blasts targeted traffic police. They killed at least nine people and wounded 43 others.

A "significant" antipiracy operation was being planned by China's government to go to the Horn of Africa after four more ships were attacked at sea by armed bandits Tuesday. One of them, a Chinese vessel, was under siege for five hours before an international response drove the pirates away. Deployment of Chinese military units so far from home would be unprecedented, but the UN Security Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize all nations to use "necessary measures" to pursue pirates in the area, including by air and on land.


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