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Mass Grave of 230 Killed by IS Jihadists Found in Syria

The bodies of 230 people killed by the Islamic State group have been found in a mass grave uncovered by their relatives in Syria's Deir Ezzor province, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

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Syria, U.N. Discuss 'Freeze' in Aleppo Fighting

The Syrian regime is in talks with a U.N. peace envoy over a possible "freeze" in fighting in the northern city of Aleppo, U.N. and pro-regime sources said Wednesday.

Deputy U.N. envoy Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy presented Monday a copy of a plan for Aleppo to Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad, "and the Syrian side asked for time to study it," daily newspaper Al-Watan said.

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Afghanis Fighting in Syria alongside Regime, Says Monitor

Shiite Muslim militiamen from Afghanistan have been fighting in Syria for months alongside President Bashar Assad's troops, a monitoring group said Wednesday.

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Saudi Beheads Pakistani Heroin Trafficker

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday beheaded a Pakistani for heroin smuggling, the interior ministry said, in the conservative kingdom's latest execution of a foreigner.

Mohammed Ghafour Hashim Khan was convicted of smuggling "a large amount" of heroin into the country, the ministry said in a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency.

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France Muscles into Israel-Palestine Debate

With the Palestinians seeking to bring negotiations with Israel to a head, France has sought to insert itself as a moderating force that can break American dominance over the peace process.

"If there is a moment when France can do something, it's now," said Hasni Abidi, a Middle East expert based in Geneva.

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Report: Spike in Syria Passport Applications

Syria's passport office has recorded a sharp rise in applications since civil war broke out nearly four years ago, a pro-regime newspaper reported Wednesday.

"A thousand passport applications are being made a day in Damascus and its province, including 200 by people aged under 18," said a passport authority official quoted by Al-Watan daily.

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Luxembourg Parliament Backs Recognition of Palestinian State

Luxembourg's parliament voted Wednesday to urge the government to recognize a Palestinian state -- the latest in a series of similar moves around Europe aimed at pressuring Israel to move forward the peace process.

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Ssshh: Be Careful What You Say in Egypt Today

Six months after Abdel Fattah al-Sisi became Egypt's president after crushing his opponents, criticism of his regime is either whispered or left unspoken amid stifling curbs on freedom of expression.

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European Parliament Backs Recognition of Palestinian State 'in Principle'

The European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the recognition of a Palestinian state "in principle" on Wednesday, following a series of votes on the issue in EU nations that have enraged Israel.

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Egypt Arrests 26 Suspected Gays for 'Debauchery'

Twenty-sex men suspected of having organized or taken part in homosexual orgies at a public bath in Egypt are to go on trial for "debauchery", a judicial official said Wednesday.

He said the men were arrested on December 7 at a hammam in the Azbakeya district of central Cairo and are to go on trial Sunday.

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