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Barak: Israel Needs New Rules for Prisoner Swaps

Israel must set new rules governing prisoner exchanges such as the one implemented to secure soldier Gilad Shalit's release, Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday.

"I'm happy about the deal on the exchange for Gilad Shalit, but we must set new rules," he told the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom.

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Polls Open in Tunisia's 1st Post-revolution Elections

Polls opened at 07:00 am (0600 GMT) Sunday in Tunisia's first-ever free elections, nine months after the surprise toppling of strongman Zine el Abidine Ben Ali in a popular revolt, Agence France Presse reporters witnessed.

Some 7.2 million people are eligible to elect a 217-member assembly that will write a new constitution after decades of autocratic government under Ben Ali, whose ousting sparked the Arab Spring.

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11 Killed in Syria as Tehran Ups Pressure on Damascus

Syria's military clampdown on protest hubs, and skirmishes pitting soldiers against armed gunmen, believed to be defectors, killed at least 11 people dead on Saturday, activists said.

Meanwhile, Iran, Syria's key ally, took a tougher stance against the regime of President Bashar Assad, openly condemning its crackdown on dissent that has left more than 3,000 people dead, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

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Jordan's Islamists Snub New Government

Jordan's powerful Islamist opposition said on Saturday it would not join the reform-mandated government of prime minister-designate Awn Khasawneh, a decision reflecting its "pessimism."

"The executive offices of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Action Front (IAF) decided, after a joint meeting, to refuse to participate in the government," read a statement on the Brotherhood's website.

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Obama: Saudi Crown Prince was 'Valued Friend' of U.S.

U.S. President Barack Obama offered condolences to Saudi Arabia on Saturday after the death of Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, calling him a "valued friend" who helped cement ties between the allies.

"He was a strong supporter of the deep and enduring partnership between our two countries forged almost seven decades ago," Obama said in a statement, adding that he learned of the crown prince's death with "great regret."

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Abbas Says U.N. Statehood Bid to Go On Even with Peace Talks

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said he would push for statehood at the United Nations even if he resumes peace negotiations with Israel, Egyptian state media reported on Saturday.

Abbas, who was in Cairo for meetings with Egypt's leadership, said he would "immediately" resume talks with Israel if it accepted a Middle East Quartet statement from last month, MENA said.

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Egyptian Gets 3 Years Jail for Facebook Islam Insult

An Egyptian court sentenced a man to three years in jail with hard labor on Saturday for insulting Islam in postings on Facebook, the official MENA news agency reported.

The Cairo court found that Ayman Yusef Mansour "intentionally insulted the dignity of the Islamic religion and attacked it with insults and ridicule on Facebook," the agency reported.

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Nayef Poised to Be Saudi's Next Crown Prince

Saudi Arabia, ever keen to preserve its stability, is likely to act quickly and appoint Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, the obvious choice, as the new heir of the thrown, analysts said.

"There is only one candidate who has all the possibilities of becoming crown prince: Prince Nayef," the interior minister and King Abdullah's half-brother, Abdul Aziz al-Sager, chairman of the Gulf Research Centre, told Agence France Presse.

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Egypt Extends Registration for Parliamentary Elections

Egyptian election officials said on Saturday they have extended the registration deadline for candidates in upcoming parliamentary polls by two days following requests from several political parties.

Candidates began submitting their applications on October 12 and the doors were to close on Saturday, after a first extension.

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Egypt, Israel Add 'Final Touches' to Prisoner Swap

Egypt and Israel are adding the "final touches" to a deal to swap an Israel-American detained in Cairo for a group of Egyptian prisoners and children, the official MENA news agency said on Saturday.

"MENA has learned that the final touches are currently being made for a deal to swap Israeli spy Ilan Grapel, accused of spying on Egypt for Israel, for about 16 Egyptian prisoners and three detained children," MENA reported.

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