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U.S. Congress Frees up $40 Million for Palestinians

The U.S. State Department said Congress has released $40 million in aid to the Palestinians, part of the nearly $200 million that was frozen over their bid for full U.N. recognition.

"We have been working with Congress for some time, because we don't think it's in U.S. national interests to keep this money frozen," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, saying U.S. diplomats were "gratified" by the move.

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At Least 13 Killed in Venezuela Gasoline Tanker Crash

A tanker truck filled with gasoline crashed and burst into flames on Thursday in Venezuela, engulfing several cars and a bus and killing at least 13 people.

The tanker truck tipped over and spilled gasoline, which ignited and burned seven vehicles, Caracas fire chief William Martinez said.

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Haniya, Hamas Leaders Meet Sudan's Bashir

Gaza's Hamas premier Ismail Haniya held talks with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir Thursday on his first official regional tour since the Islamists' 2007 power seizure in the Palestinian enclave.

Haniya, who arrived in Khartoum on Tuesday, was joined in the meeting by other high-ranking Hamas leaders -- the first time they had met as a group with Bashir, whose country has close ties with Hamas.

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Turkey FM Slams Paris over Armenian Genocide Bill

Turkey's foreign minister on Thursday hit back at French lawmakers who passed a bill last week criminalizing denial of the disputed Armenian genocide.

French lawmakers voted last Thursday to jail and fine anyone in France who denies that the 1915 killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide, prompting Turkey to suspend political and military cooperation with Paris.

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U.S. Warships Cross Hormuz as Showdown with Iran Worsens

A showdown between Iran and the United States over Tehran's threats to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz to oil tankers worsened Thursday with warships from each side giving weight to an increasingly bellicose exchange of words.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards rejected a warning that the U.S. military would "not tolerate" such a closure, saying they would act decisively "to protect our vital interests."

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U.S., Saudi Sign F-15 Warplanes Deal Worth $29bn

The United States said Thursday it had sent a "strong message" to the Gulf region, as tensions rise with Iran, by signing a $29.4 billion deal to provide F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia.

The deal, which was signed over the weekend, will supply 84 new Boeing F-15SA aircraft and modernize 70 existing planes and include munitions, spare parts, training and maintenance contracts, U.S. officials said.

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South Sudan Says 17 Killed in Sudanese Air Raids

Sudanese air raids killed 17 people in the South Sudan border state of Western Bahr al-Ghazal on Thursday, the second day of stepped-up bombing along the northern frontier, Juba's military spokesman said.

Khartoum dismissed the allegations as "incorrect."

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Cairo Court Clears 5 Police Officers over Demo Deaths

A criminal court in Cairo on Thursday acquitted five police officers who had been charged in connection with the deaths of protesters during the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

The officers had been accused of killing six demonstrators near a police station in the Sayeda Zeinab neighborhood of central Cairo, a judicial source said.

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U.S. Officials Fear They were 'Played' in 2010 Yemen Strike

U.S. officials suspect that Yemen fed them false intelligence for a 2010 strike against al-Qaida suspects that killed a local leader locked in a dispute with the president's family, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The disclosure of such an incident would complicate relations between the two allies at a time when Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is seeking to visit the United States amid months of popular protests demanding his ouster.

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Metallica Vocalist Hurls Stones at Photographers in Uruguay

Metallica lead singer James Hetfield hurled stones at reporters who were photographing him in an ice-cream parlor at a chic Uruguayan resort, the El Pais daily reported Thursday.

The singer for the hugely popular American heavy metal band was cruising with his son on a scooter Sunday in Jose Ignacio when photographers spotted him and followed him to the shop, the paper said.

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