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Clinton 'Deeply Concerned' for NKorea's Citizens, Hopes they Would Choose Peace Path

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States was "deeply concerned" for North Korea's citizens and offered "thoughts and prayers" in the wake of leader Kim Jong-Il's death.

It is in the U.S. hope the new North Korean leadership "will choose to guide their nation onto the path of peace by honoring North Korea’s commitments, improving relations with its neighbors, and respecting the rights of its people," Clinton said in a statement late Monday.

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U.S., Japan and SKorea Close Ranks Following NKorean Leader’s Death

Japan wants to hold a high-level three-way meeting with the United States and South Korea "as early as possible,” Tokyo said Tuesday, as the allies closed ranks following the death of Kim Jong-Il.

South Korea put its military on alert after the North Korean leader's death was announced on Monday and Japan, which has also been the object of Pyongyang's aggression in the past, ramped up its surveillance.

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Iraq Says Syria Opposition to Visit Next Week

Representatives of Syria's opposition will visit Iraq next week as part of Baghdad's efforts to end nine months of unrest in the country, National Security Adviser Falah al-Fayadh said on Monday.

"The Syrian opposition will visit Iraq next week," Fayadh told state broadcaster Al-Iraqiyah TV. He did not give any further details of the visit.

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U.N. General Assembly Condemns Syria Human Rights Abuses

The U.N. General Assembly on Monday passed a resolution condemning human rights in Syria where a government crackdown on protests has left more than 5,000 dead, according to U.N. estimates.

The resolution was passed with 133 countries in favor, 11 against, with 43 abstentions. Syria's U.N. ambassador said the resolution was part of a "devilish" plot against his country.

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25 Civilians Dead as Dozens of Syria Deserters Killed Fleeing

Dozens of Syrian army deserters were killed by machinegun fire as they tried to flee their military posts in northwestern Idlib province on Monday, as security forces shot dead 25 civilians across the country, rights groups said.

In a statement sent to Agence France Presse, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said between 60 and 70 deserters were gunned down as they abandoned their positions in the Idlib towns of Kansafra and Kafr Awid.

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Iraq Issues Arrest Warrant for Vice President

Iraq issued an arrest warrant for its Sunni vice president Monday in an anti-terror case, deepening a crisis that one of the country's leaders warned could force the collapse of the unity government.

Barely a day after American forces completed their withdrawal from the country, Iraq's fragile political truce was unraveling, with Tareq al-Hashemi wanted, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calling for the sacking of one of his deputies, a Sunni who belongs to the same bloc as Hashemi.

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Saudi King Calls for Formation of Gulf Union

Saudi King Abdullah called for the formation of a Gulf union in response to growing threats, as rulers of the Gulf Cooperation Council member states met on Monday against a backdrop of regional turmoil and fears over Iran.

"I ask today that we move from a phase of cooperation to a phase of union within a single entity," said the Saudi king, addressing his counterparts at the opening of the annual GCC summit in Riyadh.

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Syria Opposition Threatens to Seek Arab Military Intervention

Syria's main civilian opposition alliance will ask for an Arab military intervention if President Bashar al-Assad's regime continues its deadly crackdown on protesters, the group's leader said Monday.

The Syrian National Council, which held a conference in Tunis in a bid to close ranks and up the pressure on Assad after nine months of bloodshed, also warned that the regime's acceptance an Arab peace plan was a ploy.

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Paris Urges Quick Start for Arab Observer Mission to Syria

France on Monday urged Syria to allow an Arab League observer mission to start its work monitoring the bloody conflict there as quickly as possible.

"We regret there have been 30 more deaths in the past two days. It's urgent," a foreign ministry spokesman said, shortly after Damascus agreed to accept Arab monitors.

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Swiss Franc Gains Against Euro

The Swiss franc rose further against the euro on Monday despite last week's decision by the central bank to maintain its cap on the exchange rate.

At 2:45 pm (1345 GMT) the Swiss currency stood at 1.219 francs against the euro -- a high since the end of November -- compared to 1.2204 late on Friday.

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