World news briefs: 11/17/12

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Iraq releases terror suspect

WASHINGTON -- Senior Iraqi officials have informed the United States that Baghdad has released a Hezbollah operative who has been accused by U.S. military prosecutors of the killing of U.S. troops, terrorism and espionage, among other crimes, U.S. officials said Friday.

The prisoner, Ali Musa Daqduq, was released despite the entreaties of the Obama administration. In a phone call Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden told the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, that Iraq should explore all legal options toward this end, a U.S. official said.

But Mr. Maliki told Mr. Biden that Iraq had run out of legal options to hold Mr. Daqduq, who had been ordered released earlier this year by an Iraqi court.

Iran to expand nuke work

SALZBURG, Austria -- Iran is poised to double its output of higher-enriched uranium at its fortified underground facility, the U.N. nuclear agency said Friday -- a development that puts Tehran within months of being able to make the core of a nuclear warhead.

In its report, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran was ready within days to ramp up its production of 20 percent enriched uranium at its plant at Fordo using 700 more centrifuges.

That would double Iran's present output and cut in half the time it would take to acquire enough of the substance needed to make a nuclear weapon, reducing it to just over three months.

Thousands rally in Cairo

CAIRO -- Thousands of Egyptians gathered outside mosques and in squares across the country on Friday to call on Egypt and the Arab world to back the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.

Protesters hoisted the Palestinian flag and called for the liberation of Palestine and the destruction of Tel Aviv, as an Israeli military offensive continued for its third day in the neighboring Gaza Strip.

Trade bill advances

WASHINGTON -- Ignoring threats of retaliation from Moscow, the House of Representatives passed a long-delayed trade deal with Russia on Friday, adding language aimed at cracking down on human rights abuses.

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the House voted 365-43 to approve the bill. It now goes to the Senate, where final passage is expected..

2 generals acquitted

ZAGREB, Croatia -- An international court Friday acquitted two Croatian generals of war crimes charges, sparking nationwide celebration in the small country where the recapture of territory from ethnic Serbs in 1995 has long been seen as an act of liberation, not a crime against humanity.

By a 3-2 margin, the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia reversed a lower chamber that had sentenced Gen. Ante Gotovina to 24 years in prison and Gen. Mladen Markac to 18 years for crimes against humanity and violations of the rules of war.

U.S., Cambodia seal pact

SIEM REAP, Cambodia -- The United States on Friday reaffirmed its military ties with the authoritarian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, a former Khmer Rouge commander, but Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta also warned the country about its long record of human rights abuses.

Mr. Panetta was in Cambodia as part of the Obama administration's "pivot" to Asia to serve as a counterweight to China's rising influence.

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