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It is twenty-three hours thirty universal time. I'm Jim Tedder in Washington.

Palestinian officials say the Hamas and Fatah groups have agreed to a new cease-fire after a day of fighting in the Gaza Strip. Hospital officials in Gaza say five people were killed. At least eighteen civilians were injured. Earlier, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh appealed separately for an end to the fighting. Mr. Haniyeh urged Palestinians to unite in the struggle against Israel. He accused the United States of leading efforts to oust the Hamas-led government and American State Department official rejected the accusation.

The Iraqi government says it has executed thirteen prisoners. It says they were guilty of murder and other crimes. Also Tuesday, polices said they found fifty three bodies around Baghdad. Many showed signs of torture. Also in Baghdad gunmen stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from a bank. On Monday, the United States Defense Department said attacks in Iraq have increased to record levels during the past three months. The Defense Department said the Mahdi Army led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has passed al-Qaida as the biggest threat to civilians.

President Bush says he plans to increase the number of the United States military forces to deal with a long-term fight against terrorism. Mr. Bush told Washington Post newspaper that he has told the new Defense Secretary to discuss increases with military commanders and report back to him. Mr. Bush says he is considering the need to increase the size of the army and marines. He says the war against terror is going to last for a while and the United States is going to need a military able to continue the fight. Experts say such an expansion will take years and would have little effect on the immediate future in Iraq.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad says his country is ready for talks with the Bush Administration. Mr. Al-Assad also said that his country would not take orders from United States. He spoke in Moscow after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Ten former American officials have urged the Bush administration to get Syria and Iran involved in ending the violence in Iraq. President Bush has yet to support the idea. His Administration has accused Syria of supporting resistance fighting in Iraq.

A Libyan court has ordered death sentences for five Bulgarian medical workers and a Palestinian doctor. The court found them guilty of purposely infecting more than four hundred children with the virus that causes AIDS. The six health care workers have the right to appeal to Libyan Supreme Court. Bulgaria condemned the sentences and called for the release of the six. In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin expressed concern about the rule.

You are listening to the news in VOA Special English.

United Nations Secretary-General Koffi Annan has warned that invading Iran over its nuclear program would not be wise. Mr. Annan spoke Tuesday in his last news conference before he leaves at the end of the year. He urged the UN Security Council to push for a negotiated end to the Iranian nuclear crisis. Mr. Annan also said he hoped UN would be able to negotiate issues with Sudanese government so there would be a UN force in the Darfur area by the New Year. Mr. Annan said he is happy about the work UN has done on human rights, development and stopping the spread of diseases such as HIV AIDS and bird flu. He said one of his worst times at UN came as he tried to stop the Iraq War as he lost friends in an attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad.

Tens of thousands of supporters of the former Prime Minister of Bangladesh have gathered to support the elections planned for next month. Police were deployed near presidential home in Dhaka Tuesday to prevent violence in demonstration. Former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia leads the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Mrs. Zia said she would resist demands for the elections to be delayed. The leader of the opposition Awami League has threatened a nation-wide strike on Thursday. Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina says the temporary government must meet the demands for election reforms before the January election.

The top United States diplomat to the North Korean nuclear talks says he dose not see North Korea taking major steps toward disarming. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill spoke to news reporters in Beijing. Mr. hill said he could not report any progress at the nuclear talks, he also urged China to do more to push North Korea to act on its earlier offer to disarm its nuclear weapons.

American Diplomat Berry Lancrown has expressed concern about the freedom of news media in Azerbaijan. The assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor spoke in the Azerbaijan capital Baku, he urged Azerbaijan to expand and protect the legal rights of the news media. Last month government officials forced an independent TV station to suspend broadcasting. The officials also halted publication of two independent newspapers

Astronauts on the American space shuttle Discovery have disconnected spacecraft from the international space station and have begun their trip back to the earth. The astronauts completed four repair projects during their visit to the space station. Discovery is to land Friday at Kennedy space centre in Florida.

And now briefly, here again is the major news of this hour. Palestinian officials say the Hamas and Fatah groups have agreed to a new cease-fire after a day of fighting in the Gaza Strip. President Bush says he plans to increase the number of the United States military forces to deal with a long-term fight against terrorism. And in Bangladesh, tens of thousands of supporters of the former Prime Minister have gathered to support the elections planned for next month. That’s the news in VOA special English. This is Jim Tedder reporting.

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