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Iraq Parliament Elects Fuad Masum President

Iraq's parliament on Thursday elected veteran Kurdish politician Fuad Masum as federal president, a move that paves the way for the much-delayed formation of a new government.

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Syria Chemicals Being Destroyed Abroad

Around 700 tons of Syria's chemical agents have been delivered to specialized destruction facilities in Britain, Finland and the U.S., the watchdog in charge of the mission said Thursday.

"All 1,300 metric tonnes of chemicals removed from Syria by the international maritime operation have been delivered to destruction facilities outside the country," the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement.

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France Announces 11 Million Euros in Aid for Gaza

President Francois Hollande announced on Thursday an 11-million-euro ($14.8 million) aid package to the besieged Gaza Strip, where an Israeli military offensive has left more than 700 people dead.

An advisor to Hollande said the humanitarian aid, eight million of which will be given to the Palestinian Authority and the remainder to U.N. bodies and NGOs working in Gaza, was approved after a meeting with non-governmental organizations working in the strife-torn region.

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Report: Russia Delivering Weapons to Iraq

Russia has begun supplying military helicopters and fighters jets to Iraq, a report said Thursday, as Iraq's defense minister visited Moscow to press for equipment to thwart a jihadist offensive.

"A number of contracts with Iraq have entered into force and are being fulfilled," the Interfax news agency quoted a source in Russia's defense export establishment as saying.

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Britain Alarmed over Civilian Toll in Gaza

Britain is "gravely concerned" by the high number of civilian casualties resulting from Israel's military operation in Gaza, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Thursday.

Speaking on his first official visit to the region since taking over as Britain's top diplomat, Hammond said London would do everything it could to help broker a quick end to the hostilities which have so far claimed more than 730 lives in Gaza and 35 in Israel.

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Ban: Inclusive Govt. Can Overcome Iraq 'Existential Threat'

The formation of a truly inclusive government is required to overcome the threat of Iraq's breakup along ethnic and sectarian lines, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in Baghdad Thursday.

"Iraq is facing an existential threat but it can be overcome by the formation of a thoroughly inclusive government," he said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

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Air Algerie Plane with 119 Passengers Missing over Mali

An Air Algerie plane with around 120 people on board including French and Spanish nationals went missing Thursday during a flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers, company sources and officials said.

Aviation sources told Agence France-Presse the aircraft was a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 leased from Spanish company Swiftair carrying passengers of different nationalities.

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Kerry Reaches out to Hamas Allies to Press Truce

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke Thursday to his counterparts in Qatar and Turkey, which support the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as he pressed for a Gaza ceasefire.

Kerry -- who is in Egypt, which has drafted a truce proposal for the Israel-Hamas conflict -- spoke by phone with the foreign ministers of Qatar and Turkey, a U.S. official said.

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At Least 60 Killed in Attack on Iraq Prison Convoy

An onslaught on a convoy transferring inmates north of Baghdad left at least 60 dead Thursday, even as politicians and diplomats stepped up efforts to end Iraq's worst crisis in years.

Most of those killed in Taji, 25 kilometers (15 miles) north of Baghdad, were prisoners whose escort was attacked and were described by police as being mostly Sunni militants charged with terrorism.

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'Qaida' Suspects Kill Army Officer in South Yemen

Al-Qaida suspects on a motorbike shot dead an army officer Thursday in Lahij province of southern Yemen, a local security official said.

The gunmen opened fire at Major Bilal Karo near his home in Thalab town, "immediately killing him," the source said, adding that the militants "suspected of belonging to Al-Qaida" fled on their motorbike.

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