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Ex-Gadhafi Colonel Says Regime Crumbling

An imprisoned Libyan army colonel who surrendered to the rebel forces two months ago told Agence France Presse on Saturday that Moammar Gadhafi's regime is ridden with divisions and in the process of collapse.

Speaking from a prisoner of war camp in the rebel enclave of Misrata, Colonel Wissam Miland said Gadhafi's military hangs together through coercion and mercenary-enforced martial law, but that infighting is rife.

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Palestinians Set Date for U.N. Statehood Bid

The Palestinians will present their bid for membership of the United Nations on September 20, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told Agence France Presse on Saturday.

"Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will personally present the request to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon... at the opening of the sixty-sixth session," on September 20, Malki said.

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Syrian Troops Storm Latakia, Three Dead

Syrian troops killed at least three people as they pounded Latakia and raided other towns on Saturday, activists said, as Washington and Riyadh demanded that Damascus "immediately" halt its crackdown.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said two people were killed and 15 wounded, four of them critically, during a military operation in the southern Latakia area of Ramleh, a nerve centre of anti-regime protests.

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U.N. to Discuss Syria after Latest Crackdown

The United Nations Security Council is expected to discuss human rights and the humanitarian emergency in Syria after at least 16 people were killed as thousands of protesters rallied after Ramadan weekly prayers.

The Security Council will hold a special meeting next Thursday, diplomats at the United Nations announced.

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Shiite Opposition to Boycott Bahrain Vote

Bahrain's main Shiite opposition party will boycott next month's by-elections to replace MPs who resigned in protest against a crackdown on demonstrators, a party official said Friday.

The party, Al-Wefaq, "has decided to boycott the by-elections" September 24 to replace its 18 MPs who walked out in February, shortly after a month-long anti-government protest began, official Khalil al-Marzouk told a party gathering in a Shiite suburb of Manama.

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Egypt Says New Israeli Settler Homes 'Major Obstacle' to Talks

Egypt on Friday blasted Israel's approval of 1,600 new homes in an east Jerusalem settlement as a "major obstacle" to the start of new peace talks with the Palestinians.

"We cannot accept this, we condemn it categorically," Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr said in Berlin during his first European visit since taking office last month, according to remarks translated into German by an interpreter.

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USAID Halts Aid to Gaza over Hamas 'Meddling'

The U.S. Agency for International Development is halting humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip over alleged meddling by the enclave's rulers, Hamas, a U.S. official said Friday.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Egypt, tensions between Washington and the country's ruling generals were sparked on news that a notorious Egyptian intelligence apparatus is probing foreign funding of civil society groups.

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Russia Slams New Israeli Settler Homes

Russia on Friday said Israel's approval of 1,600 new homes in an east Jerusalem settlement would worsen an already explosive situation in the Middle East peace process.

The decision to build new homes in the area "cannot but arouse serious concern and disapproval," Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.

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Yemenis Hold Anti- and Pro-Saleh Rallies

Hundreds of thousands flooded Yemen's streets Friday seeking victory against "tyrants," a day after President Ali Abdullah Saleh said a Gulf Cooperation Council proposal for power transfer should be treated positively.

"God most merciful, grant us victory in (the Muslim holy fasting month of) Ramadan," protesters chanted in Sittine Road, in a western district of the capital Sanaa.

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Gul Warns Assad: Change or Be Changed

Turkish President Abdullah Gul has called on his Syrian counterpart to implement overdue reforms before it is too late, in a letter handed over to Bashar al-Assad by Turkey's foreign minister.

"I would not want you to look back some day and regret that you acted too little and too late," the Anatolia news agency quoted Gul as saying in his letter.

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