World News: Iraqi troops can't ensure security warns army chief

A SENIOR Iraqi officer has said the Iraqi army will not be able to ensure the country's security until 2020, and the United States should keep troops in Iraq until then.

Lt Gen Babakir Zebari told a defence conference in Baghdad that the Iraqi army would be unable to cope without backing from US forces.

His comments came as the Obama administration confirmed it was on track to start withdrawing troops at the end of August, apart from 50,000 troops who will support and train Iraqi forces before leaving the country by the end of 2011.

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"At this point, the withdrawal is going well, because they are still here," Gen Zebari said. "But the problem will start after 2011. The politicians must find other ways to fill the void after 2011.

"The US army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020."

Violence in Iraq has fallen since the peak of sectarian warfare in 2006-7, but the number of violent civilian deaths from daily bombings, shootings and other attacks, rose sharply in July.

US officials have said they expect violence to worsen as al-Qaida insurgents exploit the failure to agree on a new government after March's election.

Fear floods aid Taliban effort

FEARS have been raised that the floods ravaging Pakistan could give Taliban insurgents the chance to regroup. With 60,000 Pakistani soldiers tasked with flood relief, military analysts have raised fears that insurgents could gain ground in the northwest of the country.

Fires 'could spread radiation'

Wildfires burning across Russia could move into the areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and spread harmful radiation, environmental organisation Greenpeace warned today. About 165,000 people are battling blazes nationwide.

Zimbabwe in diamond sale

Zimbabwe began selling diamonds worth more than a billion pounds today mined from an area where soldiers are accused of killing 200 people, raping women and forcing children into hard labour.

It is the first sale of diamonds from the Marange fields since monitors overseeing the trade in "blood diamonds" lifted a ban. Human rights groups have expressed dismay at the sale, which has attracted buyers from Israel, India, Lebanon and Russia.

Poll points to hung parliament

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is polling 50.1 per cent support as the first votes were cast in the country's parliamentary election. Residents of the outback have begun voting at mobile polling stations in the tightest race since 1998, pointing to the likelihood of a hung parliament.

Thai people take part in a mass aerobics event at Bangkok's National Stadium during celebrations for Queen Sirikit's 78th birthday.

Calls to raise retirement age to 70

Germany: Two leading think tanks have recommended that the retirement age should be raised to 70 because of higher life expectancy and shrinking birth rates.

Spain: A vast swarm of jellyfish has stung hundreds of swimmers on Mediterranean beaches. Around 700 people were attacked between Sunday and Tuesday at three beaches on the Costa Blanca, which normally see just a handful of stings daily.