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Gulf States to Meet on Iran-UAE Island Spat

Foreign ministers of the six Gulf monarchies are to hold a special meeting in Riyadh after Iran's president visited an island in the Gulf claimed by the United Arab Emirates, a UAE official said on Friday.

Wednesday's Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in the Saudi capital comes at the request of the UAE, which recalled its envoy to Tehran on Thursday after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went to the disputed island of Abu Musa, the official said.

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Defense Official: Russia to Keep Warships off Syria Coast

Russia will keep a permanent naval presence off Syria's coast to match the growing number of Western warships monitoring the 13-month crisis, a top defense official said on Friday.

"A decision has been taken to keep Russian navy ships permanently stationed near Syria's coast," the RIA Novosti state news agency quoted a senior defense ministry official as saying.

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Qaida Claims Iraq Prison Breakout

Al-Qaida front organization, the Islamic State of Iraq, said on Friday that it carried out a jail breakout in which 19 prisoners escaped in late March, in a statement on jihadists sites on Friday.

The group said that its members were able "to drug the guards responsible for monitoring the prisoners at night... and then open a hole in the wall of one of the cells".

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Thousands of Syrians Demonstrate to Test Ceasefire, 11 Killed

Thousands of Syrians marched on Friday to test the regime's commitment to a U.N.-backed peace plan, and the fragile two-day old ceasefire was again shaken when security forces killed 10 civilians and an army deserter.

The Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said security forces killed three protesters in Daraa, two protesters in Hama, two people in Idlib, two protesters in Aleppo, a demonstrator in the Damascus suburb of Daraya and a rebel soldier in al-Hassakeh.

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Sarkozy Doesn't Believe in Assad's Sincerity

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that he did not believe in the sincerity of Syrian leader Bashar Assad, nor in the U.N.-backed ceasefire aimed at halting 13 months of bloodshed.

"I do not believe in Bashar Assad's sincerity, nor unfortunately in the ceasefire. I think... we must absolutely deploy observers so that at the very least we know what is happening," he told French television I-Tele.

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NGO: Syrian Troops, Rebels in 1st Clashes Since Truce

Clashes between the Syrian army and rebel fighters broke out Friday for the first time since a hard-won U.N.-backed ceasefire came into force a day earlier, a monitoring group said.

"Fighting with heavy machineguns took place in Khirbet al-Joz, located on the Turkish border, between regime soldiers and (army) deserters," Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Agence France Presse.

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Iran Says Ahmadinejad's Trip to Disputed Island a 'Domestic Issue'

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial trip to the disputed Abu Musa Island, which is controlled by Tehran but claimed by the UAE, was a purely "domestic issue," an Iranian official said.

"The president's trip to Abu Musa island is a domestic issue that took place in the framework of the president's provincial tours," deputy foreign minister in charge of Arab and African affairs Hossein Amir Abdolahian was quoted as saying.

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Paris Says Has Evidence of Syria 'Crimes against Humanity'

France has "elements of evidence" that crimes against humanity have been committed by the Syrian regime, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Thursday.

"France has gathered a certain number of elements of evidence which would enable us if the time comes, notably at the U.N., to take it before the international courts, because crimes against humanity have been committed," he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of G8 ministers.

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Erdogan Says Syria Failing to Abide by Peace Plan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Thursday accused the Syrian regime of failing to abide by the ceasefire and peace plan hammered out by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

"There's a six-point plan put forward by Annan... Is it being implemented? I'm not of the opinion it is being implemented," Erdogan told reporters before leaving for Saudi Arabia where he was to have talks on the Syrian crisis.

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Paris Says U.N. Draft on Syria Observers to be Discussed Thursday

Britain, France and the United States have drafted a U.N. Security Council resolution on the deployment of U.N. observers to Syria to be discussed Thursday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said.

"We fully support the plan to deploy an observer mission on the ground," said Juppe, adding that the three countries had collaborated on the text.

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