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Iraqi, U.S. Forces Battle Gunmen In Central Baghdad --> (RFE/RL) January 9, 2007 -- Iraqi soldiers backed by U.S. forces battled gunmen in central Baghdad today.

Police said the clashes erupted when gunmen attacked an army checkpoint in the Haifa Street area, a stronghold of Sunni insurgents.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy today called for U.S. troops to leave Iraq around the time of the next U.S. presidential elections, in late 2008.

Douste-Blazy, whose country strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, said that setting a deadline for a pullout is the only way for Iraqis to take control of security in the country.

The comments come as U.S. President George W. Bush is set to announce a new strategy for Iraq on January 11

Also today, the United Nations' children's fund said that one of its Iraqi staff members had been shot dead in Baghdad. UNICEF said it did not know the motive or who was responsible for the attack.

(compiled from agency reports)

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