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DECISION ON CEASE-FIRE COMES TODAY

Baghdad

Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has made a decision on extending his Mahdi Army's cease-fire but it won't be announced until today. Al-Sadr sent 200 loyal clerics messages in sealed envelopes to be opened at the beginning of today's sermons, one of his officials said. There were strong indications from his organization that the anti-U.S. firebrand would extend the six-month cessation of what had been an undeclared war against the U.S. military since 2004. The cease-fire has been a key in reducing violence since mid 2007. Meanwhile, the U.S. military announced the deaths of five soldiers and a Marine.

Islamabad, Pakistan

Opposition parties will govern jointly

Pakistan's two main opposition parties announced Thursday they would form a new government together, but skirted the issue of whether they would push for the ouster of U.S.-backed President Pervez Musharraf. The agreement between the secular groups, which tussled over power for a decade before Musharraf seized control in a 1999 coup, marks an important step toward setting up a civilian administration to govern Pakistan after years of military rule.

MONROVIA, Liberia

Bush pledges help to war-torn nation

President Bush offered encouragement and help Thursday to lift this shattered country from years of ruinous fighting as he concluded a tour of Africa. In Liberia, the final stop on Bush's five-country trip, almost nothing works and people are nervous about their future in the aftermath of a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003. The country is overrun with weapons, malnutrition is pervasive, half of children are not in school, and many buildings are uninhabitable. There is little running water or electricity and no sewage or land line phone system. "It's easier to tear a country down than it is to rebuild a country," Bush said. "And the people of this good country must understand the United States will stand with you as you rebuild your country."

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