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MOSCOW | Russia is demanding that a new cooperation agreement with NATO limit the number of troops that can be based in new member states in Central Europe, a leading Russian newspaper reported Wednesday.

Russia and the alliance appear to be courting more constructive ties after years of acrimony over U.S. missiles in Europe, the possible expansion of NATO toward Russian borders, and the 2008 Russia-Georgia war.

President Dmitry Medvedev is set to attend an annual NATO summit in Portugal next month, when a new cooperation deal could be struck.

But Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov handed a draft agreement to NATO demanding a ban on “significant military forces” in states that joined since the Soviet breakup in 1991, according to a report in Kommsersant.

AFGHANISTAN

Ban on security firms delayed 2 months

KABUL | The Afghan president said Wednesday that he will extend a Dec. 17 deadline for private security firms to disband by at least two extra months.

In a statement released by his office, Hamid Karzai said that he will set up a committee of officials to review the decree to ban private guards. Security companies may have longer than two months to disband, depending on how quickly the timetable submitted on Nov. 15 takes to be approved.

It is also not clear whether different organizations will be given different deadlines.

The private security firms were supposed to shut down by Dec. 17, but with only seven weeks to go until the deadline, officials said it was still unclear where the government would get the extra police and army troops to replace them. Most of the country’s armed forces are busy fighting the insurgency.

There are an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 private security guards working in Afghanistan.

MIDDLE EAST

Islamic Jihad militant killed by Israeli shell

GAZA CITY | An Israeli tank shell killed an Islamic Jihad militant in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, Palestinian medical sources and the militant group said.

Health ministry spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya identified the victim as Jihad Afana, 20, and said he had been killed by a tank shell in an area just east of the town of Jabaliya.

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