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Senate Confirms Panetta to Head Pentagon

The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Leon Panetta's nomination to be defense secretary on Tuesday, hailing his successes as CIA chief just as major challenges await him in Afghanistan and Libya.

All 100 members of the Senate approved the nomination of Panetta, a rare move of unanimity for a federal government official.

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British Military Warns Riled Cameron over Afghan Drawdown

Senior British army figures on Wednesday warned David Cameron not to "fall into the trap" of a hasty Afghan troop drawdown, a day after the premier scolded the military for claiming it was overstretched.

Head of the British army General Peter Wall cast doubt on Prime Minister Cameron's 2015 deadline for the withdrawal of combat troops during an interview for a BBC documentary due to be aired Wednesday.

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U.S. Tightens Libya Sanctions, Targets Banks in Turkey, Tunisia, Lebanon

The U.S. government tightened sanctions against three Libya-controlled banks in Turkey, Tunisia and Lebanon on Tuesday, ratcheting up the pressure on leader Moammer Gadhafi's support.

The U.S. Treasury Department said it had targeted three foreign Libyan-owned banks, identified six additional companies subject to sanctions, and lifted sanctions against a former Libyan oil minister who defected from the Gadhafi regime last month.

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Ban Ki-moon Elected for 2nd Term as U.N. Chief

The 192-nation U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday elected Ban Ki-moon for a second term as the global body's secretary general.

The assembly unanimously backed the former South Korean foreign minister by acclamation. His second five-year term will start on January 1 and run through 2016.

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U.S. 'Likely' to Pull Out 10,000 Troops from Afghanistan

President Barack Obama will "likely" withdraw about 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, with half coming out this summer and the remainder leaving later in 2011, a senior U.S. defense official said Tuesday.

Another 20,000 troops, which formed part of a troop buildup ordered earlier by Obama, would be withdrawn by the end of 2012, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Agence France Presse.

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Obama Warns of New Tactical Spats with Israel

President Barack Obama warned Monday that new "tactical" disagreements loomed between Israel and Washington, but vowed to leverage his administration's "creative powers" in the cause of peace.

Obama, who has had a testy relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke at length on the stalled peace process at a fundraiser for his 2012 reelection campaign grouping Democratic friends of Israel.

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U.N. Chief Urges Syria's Assad to Make Reforms

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday to make credible reforms "without delay," after the Syrian leader offered a national dialogue to end months of anti-regime protests.

"He urges the president to carry on these reforms without delay and in a way that is both genuine and credible," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

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Israel Okays Materials to Build Gaza Homes, Schools

Israel has approved the delivery to the Gaza Strip of materials to build 1,200 homes and 18 schools in U.N.-run projects, a defense official told Agence France Presse on Tuesday.

The decision came shortly before the scheduled departure of an international convoy seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza and as Israeli officials argued that there is no humanitarian crisis there.

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Ex-China Envoy Launches White House Bid

Former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman launched his 2012 White House bid Tuesday, calling for the United States to withdraw from overseas conflicts to rebuild "our core here at home."

"It's not that we wish to disengage from the world," Huntsman said as he formally fired up his campaign, "but rather that we believe the best national security strategy is rebuilding our core here at home."

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Yemen's Saleh 'Well' but Date of Return Uncertain

Wounded Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is "well" but the date of his return cannot be confirmed, the deputy information minister said on Tuesday, amid conflicting reports on the embattled leader's health.

"We have no confirmation yet" on the date of the return of Saleh, recovering in Riyadh from wounds sustained in an explosion as he prayed at his palace mosque earlier this month, "but we assume he'll be back within the few coming days," Abdo al-Janadi told Agence France Presse.

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