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U.S. Says Won't Rule Out Options on Venezuela Sanctions

The United States said Friday it was monitoring Venezuela's ties to Iran and "no option" is off the table for potential sanctions against President Hugo Chavez's government in Caracas.

Kevin Whitaker, the acting deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, said Washington was monitoring Venezuela for "patterns of support for acts of international terrorism."

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Eight Wounded Syrians Arrive in North Lebanon

Eight wounded Syrians were hospitalized in northern Lebanon Friday after entering the country through an illegal crossing at the border with Syria, a Lebanese security official told Agence France Presse.

"Eight Syrians with gunshot wounds were evacuated from their country via the unofficial crossing of al-Qusair in the region of Akkar" at Lebanon's northern border with Syria, the official said on condition of anonymity.

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Yemen Soldiers Kill Man at Funeral in South

Soldiers in Yemen shot dead one man and wounded six others on Friday at the funeral of an al-Qaida suspect who died in custody a year ago in the south of the country, medics and witnesses said.

Jeyab al-Saadi was killed and six others were wounded, medics at Naqib hospital in the main southern city of Aden and witnesses told Agence France Presse.

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Dar al-Fatwa Rejects Domestic Abuse Law

Lebanon's highest Sunni Muslim authority on Friday rejected a bill aimed at protecting women against domestic violence and marital rape, saying it would lead to the demise "of the family as in the West."

"Islam is very aware of and concerned with ... resolving problems of poor treatment ... but this should not happen by cloning Western laws that encourage the breakdown of the family and do not suit our society," Dar al-Fatwa said in a statement on its website.

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Sarkozy: France to Pull 100s of Troops from Afghanistan This Year

President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Friday that "several hundred" French troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan before the end of 2011.

"Between now and the end of the year, early next year, several hundred French soldiers will return to France in full agreement with the decision taken by the American president," Sarkozy told a news conference at the close of a two-day European Union summit.

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EU Backs French Call for Palestinian Donor Talks

Europe's leaders Friday backed French plans for a donor conference to help build a Palestinian state and urged resumption of the stalled Middle East peace process, according to a draft declaration seen by Agence France Presse.

The draft says a two-day European Union summit "supports the initiative to call a conference in Paris" to muster economic support to build a Palestinian state "in the framework of a re-launched peace process."

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11 Dead, At Least 31 Hurt as Syria Sees Biggest Demos Yet on 'Fall of Legitimacy' Day

Syrian security forces opened fire on Friday on anti-regime rallies killing at least nine protesters, three of them in the capital Damascus, human rights activists said.

The violence came as thousands of protesters took to the streets across Syria after the weekly Muslim prayers calling for the fall of the autocratic regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

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Lindsay Lohan Banned from Partying, Evades Jail

Troubled U.S. starlet Lindsay Lohan was banned Thursday from partying while under home detention, but escaped jail after reportedly testing positive for alcohol.

A judge said Lohan, who is in home custody as part of a plea deal following an alleged jewelry theft, had not violated the terms of her probation but should have known better than to hold a rooftop barbecue.

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Oil Prices Steady after Plunging on IEA Reserves Draw

World oil prices steadied on Friday after plunging one day earlier when the International Energy Agency decided to tap emergency crude reserves to make up for lost Libyan supplies.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in August, edged up 30 cents to $91.32 a barrel after plummeting $4.39, or 4.6 percent on Thursday.

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Sunflowers to Clean Radioactive Soil in Japan

Campaigners in Japan are asking people to grow sunflowers, said to help decontaminate radioactive soil, in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed March's massive quake and tsunami.

Volunteers are being asked to grow sunflowers this year, then send the seeds to the stricken area where they will be planted next year to help get rid of radioactive contaminants in the plant's fallout zone.

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