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U.N., U.S. Condemn IS Bombings in Syria, Concerned about Escalation

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned bombings claimed by the Islamic State group in two Syrian coastal cities and voiced concern about the military escalation in and around Damascus.

More than 148 people were killed in the bomb blasts at bus stations, hospitals and a power station in the cities of Jableh and Tartus, two strongholds of President Bashar Assad's regime.

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U.S. Says Kerry Urged Lavrov to Press for End of Syrian Bombing of Rebels

The United States urged Russia on Monday to press Syria to stop bombing opposition forces and civilians in Aleppo and the Damascus suburbs.

The appeal came in a phone call from Secretary of State John Kerry to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

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EU to Train Libyan Coast Guard to Fight Migrant Smuggling

The European Union agreed Monday to broaden the mandate of its naval mission to combat migrant smuggling off Libya by agreeing to train the Libyan coast guard and navy.

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Rights Group Says Bahrain Not Allowing Activist's Toddler Out of Jail

Bahraini authorities have turned down a request by the family of a jailed female opposition activist to allow her toddler out of prison, a rights group said Monday.

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Foreign Media Union Slams Israel Strip-Search Demand

Israel's foreign media union condemned a demand for a photographer to submit to a strip search before entering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office on Monday.

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Talks to Expand Israeli Government Hit 'Dead End'

Negotiations to bring a hardline nationalist party into Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling coalition have reached a "dead end", the head of the party said Monday.

Netanyahu, however, said talks were continuing and expressed confidence that a deal with former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu would be reached.

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Palestinian Woman Tries to Stab Policeman, Shot Dead

A Palestinian woman tried to stab an Israeli border policeman at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem on Monday and was shot dead, Israeli police said.

No injuries were reported among the police in the incident at the Biddu checkpoint. Border police fired in the air before shooting her when she continued to move toward them with a knife, authorities said.

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Azhar Grand Imam Seeks to Balance Tradition and Modernity

Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, who had a historic meeting with Pope Francis on Monday, has been on a mission to update Islamic thought while championing classical scholarship against jihadist ideologues.

The 70-year old Tayeb was appointed by ousted president Hosni Mubarak in 2010, and as a senior member of the strongman's National Democratic Party, was widely viewed as possibly another compliant cleric of the state.

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Pope and Top Imam Embrace in Historic Vatican Meeting

Pope Francis embraced the grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque at the Vatican on Monday in a historic encounter both sides hope will lead to greater understanding and dialogue between the two faiths.

The first Vatican meeting between the leader of the world's Catholics and the highest authority in Sunni Islam marks the culmination of a significant improvement in relations between the two faiths since Francis took office in 2013.

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Netanyahu Rejects French Peace Initiative, Offers to Meet Abbas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a multilateral French peace initiative as he met his French counterpart on Monday, offering instead to hold direct talks with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Paris.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he would speak to President Francois Hollande about the proposal while an aide to Valls later said there was little new in Netanyahu's remarks.

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