Iraq insists on US leaving cities by June

BAGHDAD - Iraq's government Monday ruled out allowing U.S. combat troops to remain in Iraqi cities after the June 30 deadline for their withdrawal, despite concern that Iraqi forces cannot cope with the security challenge following a resurgence of bombings.

Asking U.S. forces to stay in the cities, including volatile Mosul in the north, would be embarrassing for Iraq's prime minister, who has staked his political future on claims that the country has turned the corner.

The departure of heavily armed combat troops from bases inside the cities is important to many Iraqis.

Officials played down the Iraqi decision, with Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman saying it's up to the Iraqi government to request an extension of the U.S. presence in the cities.

Mexico lashes out at Chinese quarantine

BEIJING - Mexican officials angry about China's decision to quarantine more than 70 Mexicans over swine flu fears sent a plane Monday to the communist country to bring its citizens back home. China sent its own plane to retrieve Chinese stranded in Mexico.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon complained of a backlash against Mexicans abroad, and sent the chartered plane on Monday to fly to several cities and pick up Mexicans who wanted to leave. The Mexican ambassador said a family with three small children were rousted from their hotel before dawn and taken to a hospital.

Pakistan peace deal under fire amid attacks

ISLAMABAD - Fierce fighting between the Pakistani army and Taliban militants pushed a peace deal in a northwestern region close to collapse on Monday and drew warnings of more attacks by the insurgents.

Washington and other Western nations have criticized the three-month-old deal in the Malakand region, which is close to Afghanistan. They want Pakistan to crackdown on the insurgents - not talk to them - and are unlikely to mourn if the agreement breaks down.

Pakistan's embattled civilian government may find itself with more public support to fight the extremists if the deal ends. It could argue it has the moral high ground after offering the militants a compromise in good faith, only to see them reject it.