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Palestinians Want U.N. Recognition 'Even If Talks Start'

The Palestinians will seek U.N. recognition and membership regardless of whether there is a resumption of peace talks, negotiator Mohammed Shtayeh said on Thursday.

His comments were made as the international community pushes a raft of new peace initiatives in a bid to head off the Palestinian push for U.N. membership.

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NATO to Help Arab Revolts 'Blossom', Says Rasmussen

NATO is ready to help the so-called Arab Spring revolts to "well and truly blossom", the secretary general of the alliance, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said Thursday.

"The changes we have seen in North Africa and the Middle East were unexpected," he said in a speech to Spain's Senate entitled "NATO and the Mediterranean: the changes ahead."

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Russia, China Oppose Outside Interference in Arab Unrest

Russia and China oppose outside interference in the unrest in the Arab world, the two presidents said Thursday in a declaration, as the West seeks their support in increasing pressure on Syria.

"The sides believe that the search for settling the situation in the countries of Middle East and North Africa should take place in the legal field and through political means," said the declaration signed by Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Hu Jintao.

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U.S. Calls for End to 'Outrageous' Syria Violence

The United States on Thursday condemned Syria's "outrageous use of violence" in response to a popular uprising, saying it must come to an immediate end.

"The international community has been shocked by the horrific reports of torture and arbitrary arrests, and widespread use of violence against peaceful protesters," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said after nearly 1,300 civilians have been reportedly killed in the regime's bloody crackdown.

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10 Qaida Suspects Captured in Yemen

Yemeni authorities have arrested 10 al-Qaida suspects in the main southern city of Aden, a security official told Agence France Presse on Thursday.

"Seven al-Qaida suspects were arrested on Wednesday in a neighborhood in Aden after they infiltrated from Abyan province," an al-Qaida stronghold, the official said, adding that security forces seized AK-47 rifles carried by the militants.

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Death for Qaida Militants in Iraq over 2006 Massacre

Iraq's top criminal court issued death sentences on Thursday against 15 al-Qaida militants for a 2006 wedding massacre in which 70 people were killed, a judicial spokesman said.

"The Central Criminal Court of Iraq today issued 15 death sentences," said Abdelsattar Birakdar.

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Syrian Tanks Swoop on Northwest Town

The Syrian army has stationed tanks at entrances to Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province and troops have begun to enter the northwest town, a rights activist said on Thursday.

"Dozens of tanks, armored cars, personnel carriers and army trucks have been deployed at entrance points to Khan Sheikhun, and soldiers have started going in" to the town north of Hama, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reached by telephone.

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Gadhafi Son Calls for ‘Internationally Supervised’ Elections

Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi is ready to accept internationally supervised elections within three months, his son Seif al-Islam told an Italian newspaper on Thursday.

"Elections, immediately and with international supervision. It's the only painless way to break out of the impasse in Libya," Saif al-Islam told the daily Corriere della Sera correspondent in Tripoli.

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Jordan's King Expresses Pessimism over Mideast Peace

Jordan's King Abdullah II expressed pessimism about the prospects of Middle East peace in an interview published Thursday, speaking openly about a "one-state solution" to the conflict.

"2011 will be, I think, a very bad year for peace," Abdullah told The Washington Post in an interview at his palace in the Jordanian capital.

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Libyan Rebels Make Western Advances on Tripoli Road

Libyan rebels have captured three western villages on the road to Tripoli, as NATO insisted it could complete its mission without putting soldiers on the ground against strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

The Western military alliance which has carried out 10 weeks of air strikes against Gadhafi's forces can see out its mission without ground troops, its operations commander said in a briefing on an Italian aircraft carrier.

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