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Briefs (right)

Britain Takes Charge
Of Nato Force in Afghanistan

By Carlotta Gall


Britain took command of the NATO peacekeeping force in Afghanistan on Thursday, in preparation for the expansion of its role into the turbulent southern and southeastern areas of the country in what a NATO representative called the alliance’s most challenging operation to date.

Lt. Gen. David Richards assumed command in a short ceremony at which he issued a warning to insurgents that he intended to build a strong security force with NATO and American forces under a unified command. Richards took charge immediately of 9,000 troops of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force stationed in Kabul, the Afghan capital, and the northern and western parts of the country, where their focus is on supporting reconstruction activities. By the end of July, he will assume command of NATO and other forces in southern Afghanistan, adding combat operations against insurgents.

The arrival of some 6,000 NATO troops in the south will allow the United States to reduce its force of 19,000 troops by between 2,000 and 3,000 in August. American forces will remain in the border provinces of eastern Afghanistan and are expected to come under the NATO flag by November, giving Richards command of the military force across the country.

New Israeli Government Intent
On Setting Borders

By Greg Myre


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert won formal approval for his coalition government on Thursday, and he told the Israeli parliament he was prepared to set Israel’s boundaries during its four-year term.

In laying out the policies of his new government, Olmert also raised concerns about Iran and its nuclear program, saying he took seriously the threats to destroy Israel by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.

“We must not ignore what the president of Iran says — he means everything he says,” Olmert told lawmakers.

In Tehran, Iran’s top army brass on Thursday retracted a threat made Tuesday that Iran would make Israel a target if Iran came under American attack over its nuclear program, Agence France-Presse reported.

But Olmert’s focus on Thursday was on the borders he hopes to draw with the West Bank, with or without Palestinian involvement.

“The borders of Israel that will be formed in the coming years will be significantly different from the territories under Israel’s control today,” said Olmert, who has set a target date of 2010 for setting the boundaries.