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Last week, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie became so fed up with rampant tabloid predictions of their imminent demise that they issued a statement insisting the reports were "absolutely not true." Alas, instead of quelling whispers about the state of their four-year romance, their denial appears to have had the opposite effect.

Over the last few days, rumors regarding the megastar squeezes, who last month looked oh-so-lovey-dovey at the Cannes Film Festival, have ramped up, running the romantic gamut from supposedly separate living quarters to a planned dash down the aisle. Here's a handy-dandy roundup, which we suggest you read with a boulder-sized grain of salt . . .

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Let's start with the most pessimistic story first, courtesy of London's Mail on Sunday, which is convinced that the A-list parents of Maddox, 7, Pax, 5, Zahara, 4, Shiloh, 3, and twins Vivienne and Knox, 11 months, have given each other a wide berth at the palatial Long Island estate they've been renting while Jolie films the spy thriller "Salt."

"They would often sleep as far away from each other as possible, not even in separate bedrooms but in separate houses," a source maintains to the paper. "Angelina spent most of her time in one of the [beachfront villas] while Brad lived in the main house with its ten bedrooms."

The paper also claims that Pitt, who has been in Los Angeles doing pre-production work on the movie "Moneyball" but turned up in Washington, D.C., on Monday to visit Jolie on the "Salt" set, wasn't even at the beachfront estate "all that much" (despite excited eyewitness accounts to the contrary), causing "a huge strain."

"Now that Angelina's movie is about to wrap she is planning on heading back to L.A. and spending some quality time with Brad," pipes in another spy. "She is desperate to try to patch things up, but Brad is feeling like he needs some time and space to work things out."

The Mail wagers that Jolie and the kids will spend part of the summer at their rented chateau in the South of France, a theory that appears to contradict another, even more dubious report about how she's ostensibly been house hunting in Portugal with the hope of relocating there as soon as possible.

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The Portugal News professes to have located the seaside property that the do-gooder Oscar winner may have her eye on: a renovated farmhouse situated high atop a cliff, which doesn't exactly seem like the most child-friendly of settings.

But was Angelina searching for international real estate in between mulling over becoming the second Mrs. Pitt? That's the word from the London Sunday Mirror, which proclaims that she's "finally considering sealing her relationship with Brad . . . by giving in to his pleas to get married."

(Because six kids isn't enough to really, truly cement their couple-y status. And pleading always leads to a happily ever after.)

Anyhoodle, Jolie's so-called "change of heart" was apparently brought on by the chronic breakup whispers.

"Usually it's Brad who wants to talk marriage. But this time it was Angie," recalls a snitch. "An aide sent them all the press clippings about their 'relationship problems' and Angelina said it was probably best if they married to put an end to the stories."

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So, to sum up, Brad and Angelina, incurable romantics that they are, have allegedly decided to stick together until death -- or a team of high-priced attorneys -- do they part because the tabloids forced their hand. The phrase you're grasping for here: "Yeah right."

Still, the paper thinks they could tie the knot by summer's end, big screen commitments permitting. The leading contender for the vow-swap locale is once again New Orleans, where the famous flames own a mansion in the French Quarter.

In December, Pitt somehow forgot to mention any tabloid pressure when he was asked about the possibility of getting hitched, explaining to Ann Curry on the "Today" show, "Listen, if we feel it's important to our kids, we will do so."

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