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Canada Police Dismantle Italian Mafia Drug Trafficking Ring, 19 Arrested

Canadian police smashed a mafia drug trafficking ring with the arrest of 19 alleged high-ranking members of the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta criminal organization, officials said Wednesday.

The Toronto area dragnet Tuesday involving 260 officers was the culmination of a two-year investigation targeting "the highest levels" of the 'Ndrangheta, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said.

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Russia Wants Answers about Syria Chlorine Attacks

Russia backs moves to determine who is responsible for a wave of chlorine gas attacks in Syria that the West blames on the Damascus regime, Moscow's ambassador to the United Nations said Wednesday.

But it remains unclear if a U.N. Security Council resolution, as proposed by the United States, is the best way to provide answers, Vitaly Churkin told reporters.

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U.N. Chief Sets Up Review of Alleged Child Sex Abuse in C. Africa

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to set up an independent external review of how the United Nations handled allegations of sexual abuse of children by French and African troops in the Central African Republic, his spokesman said Wednesday.

"His intention in setting up this review is to ensure that the United Nations does not fail the victims of sexual abuse, especially when committed by those who are meant to protect them," said spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

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EU and Cuba to Resume Talks June 15

A new round of talks to warm relations between the European Union and Cuba has been scheduled for June 15 and 16 in Brussels, a Havana official told AFP Wednesday.

Cuba and the EU are in discussions to normalize their ties as the United States is similarly trying to restore relations and put an end to decades of enmity with the communist nation.

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Masked Attackers Raid Rights Group's Office in Chechnya

Masked attackers ransacked the offices of one of the last rights groups active in Russia's Chechnya region on Wednesday as crowds of pro-government demonstrators looked on, activists said.

A gang of youths broke down the door of the office in Grozny and "started smashing everything," forcing staff to flee through windows, the prominent rights group Committee Against Torture said on its Twitter account. 

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Latvian Parliament Elects Defense Minister Vejonis as President

Latvia's parliament on Wednesday elected Defense Minister Raimonds Vejonis as the Baltic state's new president, giving the 28-member European Union a Green party head of state.

"I'll do my best to continue my work to improve Latvia's security and promote the welfare of the country as a whole," the 48-year-old Vejonis told parliament after winning the secret ballot in which 55 out of 100 legislators backed him.

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U.N. Says Libya 'at the Limit', Risks Becoming Failed State

The U.N.'s Libya envoy told rival sides attending new peace talks on Wednesday that the North African "country really is at the limit" and risks becoming a failed state.

U.N. Support Mission in Libya chief Bernardino Leon exhorted those attending talks in Algiers to acknowledge their common interests, particularly their fight against the Islamic State group, and to stop demanding new concessions of each other.

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Blanca Grows into Major Hurricane

Blanca mushroomed into a major hurricane off Mexico's Pacific coast on Wednesday but could weaken before making a weekend landfall in the tourist-friendly Baja California peninsula, forecasters said.

The storm's maximum sustained winds reached 210 kilometers (130 miles) per hour and was in a stationary position some 675 kilometers (420 miles) southwest of Zihuatanejo, Guerrero state, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

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France Steps in to Save Royal Items from Auction

The government of France has intervened to stop descendants of the country's former royal family from including some heirlooms of historic importance in an auction to take place later this year, Sotheby's said on Wednesday.

Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin on Tuesday slapped "national treasure" designations on three objects among some 200 lots that are due to go under the hammer in Paris on September 29, the U.S.-based auction house said, confirming a report by the newspaper Le Figaro.

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Two Egypt Museum Staff Arrested after Artifact Thefts

Police have arrested two curators of a new Cairo museum for allegedly stealing ancient artifacts and replacing them with replicas, the antiquities ministry said on Wednesday.

Looting of the country's cultural heritage has increased since the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and during the years of political turmoil that followed.

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