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In a First, Women Throng Saudi Stadium for National Day

Hundreds of women thronged a sports stadium for the first time to mark Saudi Arabia's national day Saturday, celebrated across the conservative kingdom with a raucous display of concerts, folk dance and fireworks.

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UAE Says Iran is Main Obstacle to Arab peace

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates says Iran's "hostile and expansionist policy" is the major obstacle to solving all crises in the Arab world.

Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan accused Iran of interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and supporting "terrorist groups," including Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen and Hizbullah, the Lebanese group fighting alongside Syrian government forces.

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Iraq Kurd Head Resists Pressure to Scrap Independence Vote

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani insisted Friday that a controversial September 25 independence referendum for his autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq will go ahead, even as last-minute negotiations aimed to change his mind.

Iraq's Kurds have faced mounting international pressure, including from neighboring Turkey and Iran, to call off the referendum that the U.N. Security Council has warned was potentially destabilizing.

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Death of Akef, Man who Transformed Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

Former Muslim Brotherhood head Mohammed Mahdi Akef, who has died in hospital aged 89, helped turn Egypt's Islamist movement into a major opposition force after spending much of his life behind bars.

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Turkey Says Iraqi Kurd Vote 'Illegitimate'

Turkey on Friday slammed a planned independence referendum in Iraq's Kurdistan region next week as "illegitimate", indicating that Ankara was prepared to retaliate if it went ahead.

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German Justice Handed Images of 'Torture by Assad Regime'

More than 27,000 images of torture and killings allegedly perpetrated by the Assad regime in Syria have been handed to German prosecutors who are investigating possible abuses, a rights group said Friday.

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Amnesty Says U.S.-Made Bomb Used in Fatal Strike on Yemen Children

A U.S.-made bomb was used in a Saudi-led strike on Yemen's capital last month that killed 16 civilians, including seven children, and orphaned a young girl, Amnesty International said Friday.

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Syria Kurds Hold First Local Vote to Cement Federal Push

Residents of Kurdish-majority areas of northern Syria began voting Friday in the region's first local elections, as part of a push to cement a semi-autonomous regional government.

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Iraq Forces Oust IS from Northern Town in Drive on Hawija

Iraqi forces achieved the first goal of a new offensive against the Islamic State group on just its second day Friday, penetrating the northern town of Sharqat, AFP correspondents said.

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Civilians Trapped as IS Mounts Last Stand in Syria's Raqa

Among the ruins of a street in Syria's Raqa, an anti-jihadist fighter's call echoes from a loudspeaker: "Civilians, we are waiting for you to leave to safety."

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