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Report: Foreign Troop Deaths in Afghanistan Top 700 in 2010

The number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this year, already by far the deadliest in the nine-year campaign against the Taliban, has passed 700, an independent website said Tuesday.

The number of coalition forces killed fighting the Taliban in 2010 stood at 701, iCasualties.org said, days after U.S. President Barack Obama said the war strategy was "on track."

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South Korea Stages Mass Evacuation Drill Amid Tension with North

South Koreans stopped their cars, donned gas masks and ducked into underground shelters Wednesday in the country's biggest-ever evacuation drill — a government attempt to prepare traditionally indifferent citizens for possible new attacks by North Korea.

Fears of war on the divided Korean peninsula have intensified since the rivals fired artillery shells at each other last month across their tense western sea border. Four South Koreans on a front-line island were killed; the North's casualties are unknown.

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10 Filipino Soldiers Killed in Rebel Ambush

Communist rebels waging a decades-long insurgency in the Philippines killed 10 soldiers as the troops were returning to camp to observe a Christmas truce, the military said Wednesday.

Tuesday's attack by the New People's Army (NPA) on the central island of Samar came 48 hours before an 18-day ceasefire was to take effect, and as the opposing sides were preparing for a resumption of peace talks in February.

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Fifty Feared Dead in Asylum Boat Tragedy in Australia

At least 27 refugees, including children, died Wednesday after their wooden boat shattered in violent seas off Australia before horrified witnesses, with fears as many as 50 could have perished.

Customs officials confirmed that 42 people had survived the brutal accident but added that "tragically, initial reports are that 27 bodies have also been recovered," as the search continued into the night.

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90 Injured in Violent Clashes in Rome after Berlusconi Survived No-Confidence Vote

Rome was on Wednesday recovering from a night of violence that left 90 people injured and dozens arrested after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi survived a crucial no-confidence vote.

Berlusconi scraped through by just three votes, with 314 lawmakers voting in his favor, 311 against and two abstentions in the 630-seat lower house.

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Italy Holds Breath as Parliament Stages Confidence Vote on Berlusconi

Italy held its breath on Tuesday as lawmakers staged a knife-edge confidence vote on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government that could bring down the flamboyant Italian leader.

Berlusconi voiced confidence in a victorious outcome as he arrived in parliament and said he "absolutely excluded" his resignation, demanded by former allies from his centre-right coalition who rebelled against him.

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S.Korean Army Chief Quits Amid Tension with Pyongyang

South Korea's army chief resigned Tuesday over a controversial property investment, at a time of high tensions with North Korea following its deadly artillery attack on a border island last month.

The departure of General Hwang Eui-Don is a further blow to the South's military, widely criticized for a perceived feeble response to the North's bombardment, which triggered international alarm.

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U.S. Diplomat Richard Holbrooke Dies at 69

Richard Holbrooke, a brilliant and feisty U.S. diplomat who wrote part of the Pentagon Papers, was the architect of the 1995 Bosnia peace plan and served as President Barack Obama's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, died Monday, the State Department said. He was 69.

Calling Holbrooke "a true giant of American foreign policy," Obama paid homage to the veteran diplomat as "a truly unique figure who will be remembered for his tireless diplomacy, love of country, and pursuit of peace." Holbrooke deserves credit for much of the progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the president said.

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Sweden Blasts Bomb Blasts Claimed by Qaida-Linked Islamists

Sweden on Sunday probed two bomb blasts that killed a person in central Stockholm as a "terrorist crime", as an Al-Qaeda-linked website claimed one of its militants had carried out the suicide attack.

Saturday's explosions -- a suspected suicide attack and separate blast -- targeted Christmas shoppers in a busy pedestrian quarter of the Swedish capital. Two people were also injured.

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Ahmadinejad Invites Jordan King to Visit Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday invited Jordan's King Abdullah II to visit Tehran, in a letter delivered by top aid Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a palace statement said.

"His majesty met Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, who delivered a letter from President Ahmadinejad about bilateral ties as well as regional and international issues," it said.

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