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Clinton Says Syria Ceasefire an 'Important Step if It Holds'

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday that the ceasefire in Syria is an "important step" if it holds and urged Damascus to implement special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.

"If it holds, a ceasefire is an important step, but it represents just one element of the special envoy's plan," Clinton told reporters after talks with Group of Eight foreign ministers in Washington.

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Egypt Parliament Bars Mubarak-Era Officials from Standing for Office

Egypt's parliament on Thursday approved a law that would ban members of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's regime from standing for public office, in the latest twist to Egypt's political roller coaster.

The law, which still has to be approved by the ruling military council, could see former officials including ex-intelligence chief Omar Suleiman disqualified from standing in a presidential election scheduled for next month.

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Sarkozy, Obama Urge Syria to Respect U.N. Peace Plan

Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Barack Obama of the United States demanded Thursday that Syria respect the terms of a peace plan drawn up by a U.N. envoy and the Arab League.

The French presidency announced the joint call in a statement after the leaders held videophone talks on a series of world crises, and warned that Bashar al-Assad's regime would be "judged on its actions".

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Moscow Says Security Council May Pass Syria Monitors Resolution Friday

The U.N. Security Council could pass a resolution on Friday to allow unarmed observers to go to Syria next week to monitor the fragile ceasefire, diplomats said.

An advanced mission of 20-30 observers could be in place early next week, diplomats said. The full mission would be at least 200 monitors.

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10 Killed in Yemen Battles with al-Qaida

Yemen's army raided al-Qaida positions in the southern province of Abyan on Thursday, killing eight militants as battles between Islamists and civilians killed another two, local sources said.

"The Yemeni air force carried out four raids on al-Qaida positions" on the outskirts of Loder killing eight militants in al-Ain, on the town's southern entrance, said one armed civilian.

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Annan Says Syria Ceasefire 'Appears to be Holding', Ban Hopes to Send Monitors Soon

U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan said Thursday that a ceasefire in Syria appears to be holding but President Bashar al-Assad must carry out all parts of an agreed peace plan, as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said plans were being made to send an observer team to Syria as soon as possible.

"Syria is apparently experiencing a rare moment of calm on the ground," Annan said in a statement released as he briefed the U.N. Security Council on the 13-month-old crisis in which the U.N. says more than 9,000 people have been killed.

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Israeli Group Wants 'Flytilla' Activists Put on Trial

An Israeli group on Thursday called for the arrest and trial of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists who are expected to arrive at Ben Gurion airport as part of a solidarity campaign this weekend.

Between Saturday evening and Sunday, hundreds of activists, mainly from European countries, are expected to land at Israel's main international airport as part of a campaign called "Welcome to Palestine."

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UAE Recalls Envoy to Iran in Islands Row

The United Arab Emirates recalled its envoy to Tehran on Thursday, state news agency WAM reported, after having protested over a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a disputed island.

"The foreign ministry has recalled its ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saif Mohammed Abid al-Zaabi, for consultations," it said.

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Syria Offers Amnesty to Rebels, Calls on Refugees to Return Home

Syria's government on Thursday offered an amnesty to opposition gunmen without "blood on their hands," urging them to surrender as a U.N.-backed ceasefire entered into force.

"The interior ministry calls on gunmen whose hands have not been stained with Syrian blood to hand themselves in, along with their weapons, at the nearest police center. They would be released and all legal procedures against them would be terminated," it said, quoted by state television.

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Toll Hits 177 in South Yemen Battle with Qaida

A battle between Al-Qaida militants and armed civilians for control of the town of Loder spread on Thursday to nearby Mudia, as the death toll from four days of clashes reached 177, local sources said.

The armed men attacked a vehicle outside Mudia carrying Al-Qaida militants from nearby Shabwa province to Loder, the scene of fighting between Islamists and the army backed by armed civilians, the sources told Agence France Presse.

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