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THE INDEX — December 2, 2009

President Barack Obama's long-awaited shift in strategy on the war in Afghanistan has received praise from European leaders, but getting more troops from them to help support the additional 30,000 U.S. forces now planned for deployment may prove more difficult. While British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged 500 more troops in Afghanistan, and NATO promised at least 5,000 more, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in an interview that he would send "not a single solider more." However, the newspaper quoted an unnamed senior French official saying President Sarkozy may reconsider. Germany, which has 4,400 troops in Afghanistan, said it would be ready to do more police training but was reluctant to commit more troops. The deployment will bring the total number of American troops to 98,000, while Britain will now have about 10,000 soldiers in the region. U.S. officials have said they're looking for an additional 5,000 to 7,000 troops from allies. The Taliban released a statement following President Obama's announcement, saying the extra troops "will provoke stronger resistance and fighting. [The U.S. forces] will withdraw shamefully." In an apparent attempt to crack down on inflation and its small but growing free market economy, North Korea revalued its currency and froze all cash transactions. The move, the first in 17 years by North Korea, caused confusion within the country, according to reports. The official exchange rate between the old won and the new is now 100 to one. Some analysts see the burgeoning free market economy threatening Kim Jong-Il's hold on power and that the aim of the revaluation is to redistribute wealth throughout the country—a single family will reportedly be allowed to hold no more than 150,000 new won (roughly $1100) in hard currency. According to reports, all cash enterprises and services have been suspended by the government. North Korea took tentative steps to liberalize its economy after a famine in the late 1990s. Since then, the black market economy has grown and illicit currency exchanges have profited. The move seems intended to wipe clean the fortunes of these underground entrepreneurs and reestablish a more "perfect" socialist state. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) began public hearings on the legality of Kosovo's independence from Serbia, which Pristina declared in February, 2008. Kosovo, which had been under a provisional UN administration since 1999, has been recognized as independent by 63 countries (including the United States) since its unilateral secession, and is expected to argue that it was never part of Serbia. "Kosovo's independence is irreversible and that will remain the case, not only for the sake of Kosovo, but also for the sake of sustainable regional peace and security," Kosovo's Minister of Foreign Affairs Skender Hyensi said on Tuesday. "We are certain the court will confirm the will of Kosovo’s people to be independent and free." Serbia, however, has argued that Kosovo's secession was a "flagrant violation" of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and has claimed the move was ethnically motivated and thus illegal under international law. The UN General Assembly had asked the ICJ, which is the United Nations' highest judicial body, for an advisory ruling on the matter at the request of Serbia. The ICJ will hear testimony from 29 countries over the next nine days before issuing its ruling. Though it will not be binding, the decision is expected to set a precedent for other secessionist movements around the world, such as in Chechnya and Basque Country in Spain. In another jab at the United States and its Western allies, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran would enrich its uranium itself rather than send it to Russia and France under a UN-brokered deal. The agreement was supposed to calm fears over Iran's capacity to build a nuclear weapon by offering Tehran the option of letting foreign countries (which already possess enrichment technology) process Iranian uranium. This would theoretically prevent Iran from developing its own indigenous capacity for enrichment, and would ensure that the uranium provided to Iran's civil nuclear program would fall short of levels required for weapons production. But Iran has repeatedly been backing down from the UN deal. "The Iranian nation will produce 20 percent enriched uranium and anything it needs (itself)," President Ahmadinejad said. He also called the recent International Atomic Energy Agency censure of Iran's secret construction of a second enrichment plant "illegal." "The Zionist regime [Israel] and its backer [the United States] cannot do a damn thing to stop Iran's nuclear work," he said.

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