British PM: Iraq troops will be cut to 2,500 in 2008

' LONDON - Britain will withdraw nearly half its troops in Iraq beginning next spring, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday, leaving a contingent of 2,500 soldiers in the highly unpopular war.

Brown told lawmakers the plan follows the success of the U.S. troop increase this summer and efforts by Iraqis to drive suspected al-Qaida militants from havens in Anbar province west of Baghdad.

Brown said decisions on further cuts will be made once the reduction to 2,500 is complete, rejecting a call from opposition lawmakers to set a timetable to withdraw all forces.

Iran reopens 5 border crossings

' BAGHDAD - Iran reopened five border crossing points with Kurdish-run northern Iraq on Monday, closed last month by Tehran to protest the U.S. detention of an Iranian official.

Car and truck bombs killed at least 24 people in Baghdad and north of the capital, including a blast that killed at least 13 people in Dijlah, a village near Samarra in the Sunni heartland. The attacks bore the hallmarks of al-Qaida in Iraq, which has promised an offensive to coincide with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The Iranian border points were closed Sept. 24 to protest the U.S. detention of an Iranian official.

15 executed in Afghanistan

' KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan executed 15 prisoners by gunfire, including a man convicted of killing three Western journalists and an Afghan photographer, the chief of prisons said Monday. It was the first time the country had carried out the death penalty in three years.

The mass execution took place Sunday evening according to Afghan law, which calls for condemned prisoners to be shot to death, said Abdul Salam Ismat.

Jerusalem split is center stage in Israeli debate

' JERUSALEM - Two senior Israeli politicians, including the prime minister's closest ally, talked openly Monday about dividing Jerusalem, signaling a possible shift in Israeli opinion about one of the Mideast's most contentious issues.

The dispute over Jerusalem has derailed negotiations in the past, and the latest comments come at a time when Israeli and Palestinian teams are trying to agree on principles guiding future peace talks.