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U.S.: French Withdrawal from Afghanistan Up to Paris

The United States offered condolences after four unarmed French troops were killed by an Afghan soldier Friday and said it was up to France whether to bring its forces home from Afghanistan early.

"We mourn for their losses today, but those are decisions that only the French government and the French people can make," Navy Captain John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's warning of a possible early withdrawal.

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Deadly Suicide Blast, Several Explosions Hit Nigerian City

A series of explosions in the Nigerian city of Kano on Friday included a suicide attack on a regional police headquarters that killed two officers, a police source said.

"There was a suicide attack on the police zone 1 headquarters," the senior police source said on condition of anonymity. "So far two officers have been killed and the bomber also."

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American Singing Legend Etta James Dead at 73

Pioneering U.S. blues and soul singer Etta James, best known for her 1960 hit "At Last," died Friday from leukemia, her manager said. She was 73.

James, who flitted effortlessly from jazz, pop and love ballads to feisty R&B and who plunged into drug addiction before resurrecting her career to win six Grammys, died at a hospital in Riverside, California.

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4 Dead as Journalists, Officials Ambushed in Somalia

Somali Islamist gunmen ambushed a convoy of government officials and journalists Friday during intense fighting in Mogadishu, killing three soldiers and an official, an Agence France Presse photographer said.

"We were heading to the frontline when our convoy was ambushed by Shebab fighters, an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) struck one vehicle," the photographer said, adding that he saw four bodies.

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Morocco's Foreign Minister on Fence-mending Trip to Algeria

Morocco's new foreign minister Saad Eddine Othmani will visit Algiers next week, his ministry said Friday, as Rabat seeks to normalize ties strained for decades over the disputed Western Sahara region.

The two-day visit starting Monday will include talks with his counterpart Mourad Medelci and a meeting with Algeria's veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, it said.

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Libya ex-Rebels Sign Up for Government Jobs

Dressed in green military fatigues and clutching CVs under their arms, young Libyans who fought Moammar Gadhafi are now signing up to register for government jobs.

Some of these men spent months fighting Gadhafi’s forces on the front lines of the conflict that erupted last February and have provided security on Libya's streets since fighting ended in October, after Gadhafi was killed.

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Sarkozy Asks Erdogan for 'Reason, Dialogue' in Genocide Row

French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged "reason and dialogue" in the row with Turkey on the Armenian genocide, in a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seen by Agence France Presse Friday.

"I hope we can make reason prevail and maintain our dialogue, as befits allied and friendly countries," Sarkozy wrote after Erdogan's government reacted strongly to a bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide under Ottoman Turkish rule, which the French Senate will debate on Monday.

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South Sudan Orders Production Shutdown in Oil Row

South Sudan has ordered the shutdown of oil production amid a deepening row with Khartoum over pipeline fees, the government said Friday.

"The government has instructed the minister of petroleum and mining to proceed with arrangements for a complete shutdown of oil production", Minister of Information Barnaba Marial Benjamin told Agence France Presse Friday.

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U.S. Military Chief in Israel Talks amid Iran Tensions

U.S. military chief General Martin Dempsey on Friday urged Israel to keep the channels of communication open amid concerns the Jewish state could launch a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Speaking after talks with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on what was his first visit to Israel since taking office last October, Dempsey said both sides would benefit from greater engagement over regional issues, in an apparent reference to the Iranian nuclear standoff.

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World Not Quite as Hot in 2011; Ranks 11th Warmest

The world last year was not quite as warm as it has been for most of the past decade, government scientists said Thursday, but it continues a general trend of rising temperatures.

The average global temperature was 57.9 degrees Fahrenheit (14.4 Celsius), making 2011 the 11th hottest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. That's 0.9 degrees (0.5 C) warmer than the 20th century average, officials said. In fact, it was hotter than every year last century except 1998.

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