The United States and Georgia will sign a "strategic partnership treaty" in the New Year, AFP reports.

"Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Grigol Vashadze and the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will sign a strategic partnership treaty on January 4 in Washington," foreign ministry spokeswoman Khatuna Iosava told AFP. 

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Germany's fiscal stimulus package will be smaller than earlier announced.  Apparently, Spiegel's article from last week touting the availability of €40 ($56) billion in funds was incorrect; the figure is actually closer to €25 ($35) billion. 

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One unexpected byproduct of the global financial crisis has been a boom for Islamic banks.  AP business writer Emma Vandore explains:

France is becoming the latest country to woo Islamic banks, which avoided much of the damage from the subprime mortgage crisis by following strict principles laid out in the Quran — as the global financial crisis broadens the appeal of Islamic finance. 

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After years of denying requests from the Bush administration, Europe may be ready to help President-elect Obama solve the Gitmo problem.

When the U.S. government asked years ago that countries take in detainees freed from the Guantanamo military prison, only tiny Albania answered the call.

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Natural Gas Facility Near Kursk, Russia

Moscow and Kiev are once again on a collision course over gas supplies. WaPo:

Russia and Ukraine appear to be heading for a new collision over natural gas that could disrupt supplies to Europe this winter, with Russia threatening to stop selling the fuel to Ukraine on Jan. 1 if it does not repay more than $2 billion in debt.

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STOCK - Afghanistan

Echoing similar measures used in Iraq, the U.S. will begin funding militias in remote areas of Afghanistan to help fight the Taliban. 

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New York Times Building

The New York Times yesterday published a letter by Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, assailing Caroline Kennedy's status as apparent frontrunner for the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton.  The author termed it "surprising and not very democratic, to say the least." 

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India-Pakistan Walking Line Between War and Peace

India is playing it close to the vest with information on last month's deadly terrorist attacks in Mumbai.  Interpol secretary general Ronald Nobel says that his agency has been kept out of the loop, BBC reports.

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Hopes are high that a new Afghanistan strategy and 30,000 extra U.S. troops will prove to be a turning point in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, much as similar measures changed the nature of the counterinsurgency in Iraq. 

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osce-georgia.jpg

The OSCE's mission in Georgia, which opened in 1992, is coming to a close.  Veronika Oleksyn for AP:

OSCE chair Finland called a meeting Monday morning to seek a three-month extension to the mandate, which expires on Dec. 31, to allow time for more negotiations on the mission's future. It had been the topic of behind-the-scenes discussions for some time.  "Unfortunately, there was no consensus on this decision," said Antti Turunen, Finland's ambassador to the OSCE, after the closed-door gathering.

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