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U.S. Hits Syrian Defense Minister with Sanctions

The United States hit Syria's defense minister and two other senior military figures with sanctions Friday, ramping pressure on Bashar al-Assad's regime as U.N. efforts failed to halt violence.

The Treasury Department announced measures against Dawoud Rajiha as well as the army's deputy chief of staff and the head of presidential security.

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Thousands of Demonstrators Mark Land Day in Jordan, Hundreds Rally in Syria

More than 15,000 people in Jordan, including opposition Islamists and trade unionists, held a peaceful sit-in near the border with Israel on Friday to mark Land Day.

Waving Jordanian and Palestinian flags, the demonstrators carried banners reading: "Freedom for Jerusalem and freedom for Palestine," and "Jerusalem, here we come," as they gathered in Kafrein, some 10 kilometers (six miles) from the border crossing and barely a kilometer and a half (a mile) from the frontier.

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Amnesty Urges Bahrain to Free Activist

Amnesty on Friday urged Bahrain to immediately release a rights activist jailed for his role in anti-regime protests, warning his life is at risk after a hunger strike of more than seven weeks.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja had lost 16 kilograms (35 pounds) since beginning a hunger strike 50 days ago, the London-based human rights watchdog said, citing the activist's lawyer.

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Palestinian Killed, 51 Hurt as Thousands Rally to Mark Land Day

A 20-year-old man was killed and another 51 people injured by Israeli fire on Friday, as thousands rallied across the West Bank and Gaza to mark Land Day, medical sources said.

Demonstrations also took place in annexed east Jerusalem and across Israel, as well as in Jordan, southern Lebanon and Syria to mark the annual event that commemorates the deaths of six Arab Israelis at the hands of Israeli forces during protests against land confiscation in 1976.

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Egypt Liberals 'Back to Square One' with Islamists

Egyptian liberal groups said on Friday that they were back to square one in a struggle with Islamists over the drafting of a new constitution a day after most parties agreed on a compromise.

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China Joins Assad in Calling on Rebels to End Attacks

China said Friday that rebels fighting in Syria had to commit to talks and stop attacks they have been carrying out, mirroring demands from embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A peace plan put forward by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan includes a call for a full cease-fire, but Assad's condition that there be an express promise from the opposition to stop attacks could complicate Annan's attempts to bring an end to more than a year of violence that the U.N. says has killed more than 9,000 people.

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45 Dead as Protesters Rally across Syria and Annan Urges Instant Ceasefire

Deadly clashes raged and anti-regime protesters rallied across Syria on Friday to denounce the Arab League’s inaction in the face of a bloody crackdown on dissent after the annual Arab Summit only urged dialogue to resolve the crisis, as U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan urged the regime to immediately implement a ceasefire.

The Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said security forces killed 45 people across the country: nine in Daraa, 14 in Deir al-Zour, three in Aleppo, 12 in Homs, four in Idlib, two in Damascus and one in Hama.

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Clinton in Riyadh to Push for End to Crackdown in Syria

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Riyadh Friday for talks with Saudi leaders as she kicked off a two-country tour aimed at raising pressure on the Syrian regime, the U.S. embassy there said.

"Mrs. Clinton has arrived in Riyadh for talks with senior Saudi officials," an embassy spokesman said.

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Syria Opposition Calls for Demos as Regime Forces Shell Homs

Syrian activists called for mass protests on Friday to denounce Arab countries for "abandoning" them as Syrian forces shelled rebel bastions in the central city of Homs and launched assaults in northwestern Idlib province.

"The Muslims and the Arabs have abandoned us ... but God is with us ... and our determination will carry us to victory," said a statement posted on the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page, urging nationwide street demonstrations after the weekly Friday prayers.

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Erdogan Urges Political Reform in Syria

Syria should heed the will of its people by implementing political reforms and allowing free elections, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on a visit to Tehran in remarks reported by Iranian media Friday.

"The Syrian regime should be receptive to the will of its people, who want elections and democracy," Erdogan said, according to an interview aired on Iranian state television late Thursday.

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