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Iraq Controls Airspace for 1st Time since 2003 Invasion

Iraq this month took responsibility for all of its airspace for the first time since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad said on Wednesday.

"On October 1, 2011, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) transferred management of the Baghdad/Balad Airspace sector to the Iraq Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA)," said an embassy statement.

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EU Warns of 'Serious' Global Implications in Iran Plot in U.S.

The European Union voiced "grave concern" Wednesday after the United States said it had foiled an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador, warning it could have serious international implications.

"Should the facts be confirmed, this would constitute a major breach of international law with serious international implications," said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton.

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Qatari Emir Hails Syrian Opposition Council

Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani has hailed as an "important step" the creation of a Syrian opposition front, urging President Bashar Assad to talk to them after months of deadly protests.

"The (formation of the) Syrian National Council marks an important step" said the ruler of the energy-rich Gulf state in remarks aired on Wednesday by the Doha-based Al-Jazeera news channel.

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Pope Says Egypt Must Resist Attempts to Divide Religions

Pope Benedict XVI called on Egypt on Wednesday to fight "attempts to sabotage" relations between Christians and Muslims.

Addressing pilgrims during the weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, the pope expressed his sorrow over clashes between protesters and security forces on Sunday that left 25 people dead, mainly Coptic Christians.

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Clinton Voices Concern in Talk with Egyptian FM on Violence

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced "deep concern" Tuesday about deadly weekend violence that killed 25 people in Egypt, mainly Coptic Christians.

Clinton phoned top Egyptian diplomat Mohamed Kamel Amr to convey "the need for the Egyptian government to ensure that the fundamental rights of all Egyptians are respected, including the rights of religious freedom, peaceful assembly and the end of military trials for civilians, and that efforts be made to address sectarian tensions," the State Department said.

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Turkey Welcomes Israeli-Palestinian Prisoner Swap Deal

Turkey on Wednesday welcomed a deal between Israel and Hamas in which a Franco-Israeli soldier, held for five years, is to be exchanged for more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners.

"We are happy," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, of the deal that will see the Palestinian militant group free Gilad Shalit, who they have held since 2006.

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Four Israeli Synagogues Vandalized

Four synagogues in the northern Israeli town of Safed have been vandalized, with assailants spray painting "death to Jews" on the structures, Israeli police told Agence France Presse on Wednesday.

The incident came after an attack last week on an Arab-Israeli mosque, and police said they were looking at whether Tuesday night's incident was a revenge attack.

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Iran Says U.S. Plot Claim is 'Childish Game' to Divert Attention

U.S. accusations Iran was involved in an alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington is a "childish game" meant to distract the U.S. public's attention, Iran's parliament speaker said Wednesday.

"The Americans have launched a stupid mischief. They want to divert attentions from the problems in the region," Ali Larijani said, according to Mehr news agency and other Iranian media.

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Thousands Rally in Damascus to Support Syrian President

Thousands of people rallied in central Damascus on Wednesday in a show of support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad which has been shaken by mass protests for nearly seven months.

An Agence France Presse journalist witnessing the demonstration said it had begun with a call on the Facebook page "My homeland, Syria" of Assad supporters urging them to rally to "reinforce unity and solidarity with the families of martyrs and thank Russia and China for their stand against the conspiracy" targeting Syria.

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Suicide Car Bombers Kill 19 at Baghdad Police Stations

Bomb and gun attacks mainly targeting security forces, including two suicide car bombs minutes apart on police stations, killed at least 19 people in Baghdad's deadliest day in more than a month.

The violence, in which nearly 70 people were also wounded, signaled insurgents' ability to plan and carry out coordinated attacks on well-secured targets, as Iraq weighs its options over a post-2011 American military training mission.

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