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Marines may soon leave Liberia

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 3, 2003

WASHINGTON - A senior U.S. general on Tuesday gave an upbeat assessment of the security situation in Liberia, saying that a West African-led peacekeeping mission was going well enough that U.S. troops supporting it might soon go home.

The officer, Gen. Charles Wald of the Air Force, cautioned that there is still unrest in rebel-controlled areas outside of Monrovia, the Liberian capital. But he said efforts to deliver food, medicine and other humanitarian aid are progressing well.

About 150 U.S. troops remain in Monrovia providing security to the U.S. Embassy there, as well as logistics and other support to the African peacekeepers. More than 2,200 Marines are aboard three ships off the Liberian coast. Wald told reporters, "There is speculation they could come home in a few weeks."

Astronomers to monitor path of asteroid

LONDON - An asteroid two-thirds of a mile wide has been spotted in distant space and its trajectory will be closely studied over the next two months, British astronomers said Tuesday.

The astronomers said that there was no cause for alarm because there was only about a one in a million chance that the asteroid, known as 2003 QQ47, could ever reach Earth.

"There is some uncertainty about where it is going. In all probability, within the next month we will know its future orbit with an accuracy which will mean we will be able to rule out any impact," said Alan Fitzsimmons of Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland, a member of the expert team advising the UK Near Earth Objects Information Center in Leicester, England.

The astronomers gave a rough estimate of it reaching Earth at 1 in 909,000, adding that such an event couldn't occur for 12 years.

N. Korea to talk about nuclear program after all

BEIJING - North Korea reversed itself on Tuesday and pledged to continue negotiating on its nuclear program, while Chinese officials asserted that the bigger obstacle to a diplomatic solution was American reluctance to begin bargaining in earnest.

Analysts who have spoken to Chinese officials said Beijing believes that North Korea is prepared to trade away its nuclear program for the right mix of security and economic incentives.

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