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4,000 Filipinos Still in Libya despite Growing Danger

Around 4,000 Filipinos remain in Libya despite the North African country's perilous security situation, staying put for higher salaries in spite of the risks presented by rival armed groups to migrant workers, the Philippines said Thursday.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose told Agence France Presse "(The) reason for staying is mainly economic," adding that "4,000 still remain".

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Top Syria Opponent Seeks to Unite Dissidents

Syria's exiled opposition chief told Agence France-Presse he wants to pull together the country's divided dissidents to end the four-year bloodbath, as he met the French president for the first time Thursday.

Khaled Khoja, who has headed the main Syrian National Coalition since January, said President Bashar Assad's ouster should not be a pre-condition to enter into a new round of talks with the regime.

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Unrest Shakes Aleppo as Rebels Say Ceasefire Plan 'Dead End'

Heavy clashes and a regime barrel bomb attack shook the Syrian city of Aleppo Thursday after rebels tried to seize an intelligence headquarters in a forceful rejection of U.N. ceasefire efforts.

The fresh violence came during a visit to Aleppo by a delegation sent by U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura, who is seeking to "freeze" fighting in the devastated northern city.

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Suspected Jewish Extremists Torch Palestinian Cars

Suspected Jewish extremists torched two cars and scrawled graffiti on a nearby wall in a West Bank village before dawn Thursday, Palestinian residents said, the latest in a series of vandalism attacks.

Near the two burnt-out vehicles in Al-Mughayer, east of Ramallah, someone had written "death to Arabs" on the wall of a home, an Agence France Presse photographer said.

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Gaza Power Plant Shuts Down over Palestinian Tax Dispute

The Gaza Strip's sole power plant has halted production, the Hamas-run energy authority said Thursday, following a dispute with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority over fuel tax.

Hamas pays the PA for fuel imported to besieged Gaza, but is short of cash and had been unable to cover the additional costs in tax.

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Turkey Rules Out Combat Mission to Help Iraq Retake Mosul

Turkey will not take part in any military offensive by Iraq to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday.

"We would support Mosul but will not combat directly," Davutoglu was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet newspaper en route to New York, referring to Turkey's willingess to offer Iraq logistical and other assistance, but not troops.

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Kidnapped Iranian Diplomat Rescued in Yemen

An Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Yemen and held hostage for nearly two years has been rescued in a military operation and returned to Tehran on Thursday, official media reported.

Nour-Ahmad Nikbakht was seized in July 2013 while leaving his home in Sanaa by gunmen suspected of being members of al-Qaida.

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U.S. Warns Tikrit Offensive Must Not Fuel Sectarianism

The United States on Wednesday warned an offensive to retake control of the Iraqi city of Tikrit from Islamic State militants must not fuel sectarian tensions.

"It is important -- and (Iraqi) Prime Minister (Haider al-)Abadi himself has indicated... that this operation should not be used as an excuse or as cover for individuals taking sectarian-motivated retribution," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. 

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Kerry Briefs Wary Gulf Ministers after Iran Nuclear Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry briefed wary Gulf ministers Thursday about his latest nuclear talks with Iran, as Washington and its regional allies seek to stabilise a troubled Middle East.

Fresh from three days of negotiations in Switzerland, Kerry gathered at a Riyadh air base with foreign ministers from the six Gulf Cooperation Council nations.

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Dempsey Says U.S. Forces could have Role in Syria in Future

The U.S. military's top officer, General Martin Dempsey, told lawmakers on Wednesday it was possible special operations forces could eventually be sent to Syria to back up American-trained rebels.

But officials said Dempsey's comment was addressing a "hypothetical" scenario for the moment as moderate opposition forces have not yet been trained.

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