World News Brief, Thursday December 18

British will pull out of Iraq "by the end of May"; Bird flu is back; China's reveals new property stimulus package; Zardari rejects Mumbai bombing claims; and more

Top of the Agenda: U.K. Iraq Pullout

On an unannounced visit to Baghdad, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed that he intends to pull British troops out of Iraq (IHT) by next summer, effectively ending the six-year-old British military mission in the country. Under an agreement Britain has signed with the Iraqi government, all but a small cadre of British troops must leave the country by the end of July 2009, and Brown said he expects the mission to wrap up "by the end of May, or earlier" (AFP).

Britain currently has 4,100 troops in the country. The Guardian reports a contingent of 300 British troops will remain in Iraq to help with training Iraqi forces, per Britain's agreement with the Iraqi government. The article says the withdrawal of the remainder of the troops will begin next month when Britain hands control of Basra airport over to Iraqi forces.

Shortly after Brown met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a car bomb rocked the Munstansariyah district of northern Baghdad, killing at least eight people (AFP) and wounding forty-three.


- A news analysis from the BBC looks at what the drawdown will mean for British military capabilities elsewhere in the world and says Britain may leave a Basra a functional place.


PACIFIC RIM: Bird Flu Crackdown

The BBC reports China has undertaken a bird flu crackdown in its eastern province of Jiangsu, culling more than 370,000 chickens after a recent outbreak of the virus.

ECONOMICS: Separately, China unveiled a new property stimulus package (Xinhua) aimed at improving the quality of low-income housing and boosting home ownership rates.

THAILAND: Thailand's King endorsed (Bangkok Post) the country's new prime minister in a boost to the country's new government following the recent unrest through which it came to power.



Historic Fed rate cuts; benchmark fed funds rate dropped to 0.5 percent.
Pakistan's Zardari rebuffs India's claims about Mumbai terrorists.

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