l MR Tony Blair brought negotiations for the European Union's budget 2007-13 to a conclusion after intensive discussions over two days and nights in Brussels. In return for an increased UK contribution to funds for new members in Eastern Europe, Britain won a commitment for a review in 2008 of all EU spending but failed to get an undertaking from France that this would cover the Common Agriculatural Policy. There was general agreement that the German Chancellor, Frau Angela Merkel, had played a key role at her first EU summit. l In Iraq an estimated 80 per cent of the electorate voted to choose members of a new parliament from some 7'000 candidates representing 230 parties in 18 provinces. Violence was at a minimum as US and British troops and Iraq security forces protected polling booths and traffic was brought to a standstill. The result of the election is expected in about one week. l President Bush abruptly reversed his position and agreed to support a Bill proposed by Senator John McCain that specifically prohibits any US personnel from using “cruel, inhumane or degrading” treatment of prisoners in US custody. The Bill had been approved by both Houses of Congress but Mr Bush and Vice President Cheney had previously opposed it. l Detlev Mehlis, a UN-appointed prosecutor, delivered his second report on the murder of Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon, confirming his earlier conclusion that the government of Syria was implicated in Mr Hariri's death. Meanwhile the latest of a series of murders in Lebanon took the life of a leading anti-Syrian editor and MP, Gibran Tueni. l The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, added to his earlier criticism of Israel by saying that the Holocaust was a myth and that Israel should be moved to Europe or America. There were reports that Israel was preparing a force to strike against Iran if it defies the International Atomic Energy Agency and goes ahead with manufacture of a nuclear weapon. l The price of gold continued to rise, reaching US$540 a troy ounce for the first time since 1981; Japanese investors seeking an alternative to a weak yen were thought to be behind the recent demand for gold.


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