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Kuwait MPs Okay Death Penalty for Cursing God, the Prophet

Kuwait's parliament on Thursday provisionally passed amendments to the Gulf state's penal code stipulating the death penalty for those who curse God, Islam's Prophet Mohammed or his wives.

Forty-six MPs, including cabinet ministers, voted for the key amendments that will come into effect only after another round of voting and government approval. The second and final vote will take place in two weeks.

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Russia Urges Time for Annan's Plan to Work in Syria

Russia called for more time on Thursday for international envoy Kofi Annan's Syrian peace plan to work, as a ceasefire to end months of violence came into force with no major reports of violations.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said some Arab and Western states had written off Annan's peace plan as a failure even before it had gone into effect and called on them to use their influence with the rebels to avoid future unrest.

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UAE Minister: Ahmadinejad Violated Our Sovereignty

UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan slammed a visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a disputed island, state news agency WAM said.

"Sheikh Abdullah blasted the visit as a 'flagrant violation' of UAE sovereignty over its territories and a setback to all efforts and attempts the UAE is making to find a peaceful settlement to Iran's occupation of the three UAE islands," WAM reported late on Wednesday.

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SNC Urges Syrians to Protest

The head of the opposition Syrian National Council on Thursday urged people to demonstrate against President Bashar Assad's regime, in a test of a ceasefire that entered in to force at dawn.

Burhan Ghalioun, who leads the exile umbrella opposition organization, also urged the international community to provide protection to Syrians who take to the streets by sending observers.

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Egypt Court Clears Way for Salafist to Rejoin Presidential Race

Salafist politician Hazem Abu Ismail looks set to rejoin the presidential race after a court ruled on Wednesday that his mother was not a U.S. citizen, the official MENA news agency reported.

Under the country's electoral law, all candidates for the presidency, their parents and their wives must have only Egyptian citizenship.

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NATO is ‘Serious’ in Defending Allies after Syria-Turkey Border Incident

NATO said Thursday it takes its responsibility to defend allies "extremely seriously" after member state Turkey said it may seek help after shootings along its border with Syria.

"We are deeply concerned by events in Syria, particularly the recent incidents on the border with our ally Turkey," NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero told Agence France Presse.

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Cameron: U.N. Must 'Tighten the Noose' on Syria

British Prime Minister David Cameron urged Russia and China on Thursday to join the international community and help "tighten the noose" on the Syrian regime over its deadly crackdown on protests.

A U.N.-backed ceasefire to end 13 months of bloodshed in Syria appeared to be holding after coming into force at daybreak, but doubts remained about the compliance of President Bashar Assad's government with the peace plan.

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China Welcomes Syria's 'Ceasefire Decision' that would Lead to Political Solution

China's foreign ministry on Thursday welcomed what it called the Syrian government's decision to uphold a "comprehensive ceasefire,” and urged it to fulfill its commitments.

"This will help ease the tense situation in Syria, and is an important step towards a political solution," said ministry spokesman Liu Weimin, after a U.N.-backed ceasefire to end 13 months of bloodshed in Syria came into force.

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23 Reportedly Dead as Syria Regime, Opposition Trade Charges of Breaking Ceasefire

A ceasefire in Syria appeared to be holding on Thursday, as the Syrian government and its foes traded charges of trying to wreck U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan.

Renewed bloodshed on Thursday killed at least 23 people, putting to the test the hard-won ceasefire plan.

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German Foreign Minister Presses Russia on Syria

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle Wednesday pressed Russia to distance itself from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's deadly crackdown on opposition rebels.

"Russia has to make clear that it does not want to have anything to do with these acts of violence and this repression," Westerwelle said on the sidelines of a two-day meeting with Group of Eight ministers in Washington.

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