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Iraqi Leaders Dismiss Coup Plot, Release Officials

Iraq's interior ministry says authorities have released some 23 officials accused of working to rebuild the outlawed Baath party of former leader Saddam Hussein.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told reporters on Friday the arrests were motivated by politics, and not security. He denied that the detained security and defense ministry officials were planning a coup.

In other news, an Iraqi judge and a lawyer for Muntazer al-Zaidi say the reporter was badly beaten during his arrest. Zaidi has been in Iraqi custody since Sunday, when he threw shoes at visiting U.S. President George Bush during a news conference in Iraq.

Thousands of Iraqis have protested in the streets, demanding the reporter's release. Zaidi has become somewhat of a folk hero for his action against Mr. Bush.

Separately, Iraqi authorities found the remains of nine people in a house in the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Ur , a mainly Shi'ite district, on Friday. It was not immediately clear when the people died.

During the height of sectarian and insurgent violence following the U.S.-led invasion, similar discoveries were common. But over the past year such crimes have dropped dramatically.

Also on Friday, the U.S. military in Iraq said its forces north of Baghdad arrested an Iranian intelligence agent who was believed to be involved in training Iraqi militants.

And Macedonia pulled the last of its troops out of Iraq on Friday. Forty troops returned home to the Balkan country. Macedonian officials say 480 soldiers have served in Iraq since 2003.

Earlier in the day, South Korea's remaining troops also pulled out of Iraq.