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EU Bans Oil Investments in Syria

The European Union widened sanctions against Syria on Friday, banning new investments in the oil sector and prohibiting the delivery of bank notes to the Syrian central bank.

"The EU restrictive measures are designed to have maximum impact on the Syrian regime, while minimizing any potential negative impacts on the Syrian population," said EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton.

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Switzerland Slaps Fresh Sanctions on Syria, Targets Oil Products

Switzerland on Friday announced fresh sanctions on Syria, saying that it would impose an embargo on the import, sales and transport of Syrian oil and oil products.

"Due to the relentless repression imposed by the Syrian security forces, the Federal Council has decided to tighten sanctions against Syria," said the Swiss economy ministry in a statement.

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Israel Rejects Sarkozy’s Compromise on Palestinian State

Israel on Friday rejected a proposal by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to upgrade the Palestinians' U.N. status and admit them as a non-member state, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

"This may seem like a good idea on the surface but in reality you can't cut corners by giving the Palestinians a state, however you describe it, which does not come from an agreement with Israel," Yigal Palmor told Agence France Presse.

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Yemen President Back in Sanaa after 3 Months in Saudi

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to Sanaa on Friday after more than three months of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, even as his forces were battling dissident troops in the capital.

Saleh's surprise return was announced by state television. He arrived by plane in Sanaa at 5:00 am (02:00 GMT), an airport source told Agence France Presse.

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Israel Boosts Security Ahead of Palestinian U.N. Bid

Israel on Friday will raise its level of security alertness in case unrest accompanies Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's application for U.N. membership for a Palestinian state, police said.

"We will be heightening security by one level in general. This is being coordinated by the military, border police and Israel police," police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told Agence France Presse.

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Libya Holds Back from Assault on Last Gadhafi Redoubts

Forces loyal to Libya's new rulers said they were holding back on Thursday from advancing on Moammar Gadhafi's last redoubts despite their capture of two key southern oases.

The commander of NATO's Libya air campaign, Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, said he was confident the mission could be completed "well within" three months after the alliance extended it for another 90 days.

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Gadhafi's PM Mahmoudi Arrested in Tunisia

Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, Libya's former prime minister under Moammar Gadhafi, was arrested in Tunisia and jailed Thursday for six months for illegal entry, a Tunisian justice ministry spokesman told Agence France Presse.

Baghdadi, who was arrested on Wednesday, "appeared before the state prosecutor in Tozeur (430 kilometers south of Tunis) and sentenced to six months in prison with immediate effect," Kadhem Zine el Abidine said.

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10 Killed in Yemen Capital as Civil War Looms

Deadly clashes spread across Yemen's capital on Thursday as tribesmen joined battles between rival military units, raising fears among frightened residents of a descent into civil war.

Soaring tensions between troops loyal to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his opponents torpedoed efforts on Wednesday by international mediators to promote a Gulf-initiated deal aimed at ending the political impasse that has gripped the country for months.

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Hundreds Protest in Ramallah over Obama's U.N. Speech

Around 1,000 Palestinians gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday to protest against U.S. President Barack Obama's speech to the United Nations.

The protesters carried signs deriding the United States and Obama for his address, in which he reiterated his opposition to the Palestinians' attempt to win U.N. membership for their state, saying there was no "shortcut" to peace.

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NATO Says it Can Achieve Libya Mission within 3 Months

NATO can achieve its mission in Libya within the next three months, the commander of the NATO military operation, Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard said Thursday.

Asked for an assessment a day after NATO allies extended their air campaign in Libya by another 90 days, Bouchard said at a press briefing in Brussels: "I'm highly confident we can complete this mission well within this timeframe."

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