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25 Civilians Dead as Dozens of Syria Deserters Killed Fleeing

Dozens of Syrian army deserters were killed by machinegun fire as they tried to flee their military posts in northwestern Idlib province on Monday, as security forces shot dead 25 civilians across the country, rights groups said.

In a statement sent to Agence France Presse, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said between 60 and 70 deserters were gunned down as they abandoned their positions in the Idlib towns of Kansafra and Kafr Awid.

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Iraq Issues Arrest Warrant for Vice President

Iraq issued an arrest warrant for its Sunni vice president Monday in an anti-terror case, deepening a crisis that one of the country's leaders warned could force the collapse of the unity government.

Barely a day after American forces completed their withdrawal from the country, Iraq's fragile political truce was unraveling, with Tareq al-Hashemi wanted, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki calling for the sacking of one of his deputies, a Sunni who belongs to the same bloc as Hashemi.

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Saudi King Calls for Formation of Gulf Union

Saudi King Abdullah called for the formation of a Gulf union in response to growing threats, as rulers of the Gulf Cooperation Council member states met on Monday against a backdrop of regional turmoil and fears over Iran.

"I ask today that we move from a phase of cooperation to a phase of union within a single entity," said the Saudi king, addressing his counterparts at the opening of the annual GCC summit in Riyadh.

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Syria Opposition Threatens to Seek Arab Military Intervention

Syria's main civilian opposition alliance will ask for an Arab military intervention if President Bashar al-Assad's regime continues its deadly crackdown on protesters, the group's leader said Monday.

The Syrian National Council, which held a conference in Tunis in a bid to close ranks and up the pressure on Assad after nine months of bloodshed, also warned that the regime's acceptance an Arab peace plan was a ploy.

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Paris Urges Quick Start for Arab Observer Mission to Syria

France on Monday urged Syria to allow an Arab League observer mission to start its work monitoring the bloody conflict there as quickly as possible.

"We regret there have been 30 more deaths in the past two days. It's urgent," a foreign ministry spokesman said, shortly after Damascus agreed to accept Arab monitors.

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Al-Arabi Says Observer Advance Team to Syria within 72 Hours

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said on Monday that an advance team of observers would head to Damascus within 72 hours, after Syria inked a deal to end nine months of bloodshed.

"Within two or three days, an advance team of observers headed by Arab League Assistant Secretary General Samir Seif al-Yazal, including security, legal and administrative observers, will be sent," Arabi told reporters.

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Egypt Army: We Uncovered Plot to Burn Parliament

Egypt's ruling military council, which took power when Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February, said on Monday it had uncovered a plot to burn down parliament.

General Adel Emara, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, interrupted a live news conference to say that he had "received a call now to say that a plot was uncovered today to burn parliament and there are now large crowds in Tahrir Square ready to implement the plan."

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Ahmadinejad Describes Arab States' Actions on Syria as 'Joke'

Iran on Monday said it backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's decision to start implementing an Arab League plan to quell the violence in his country by finally letting in observers.

But Tehran suggested it was not entirely happy with the pressure Arab states had brought to bear on Damascus, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying their action towards Syria was "like a joke."

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Syria Loyalists Rally as Arabs Await Response on Deal

The Syrian regime organized a show of support on Monday as expectations rose that it was finally set to admit observers to monitor implementation of an Arab deal to end nine months of bloodshed.

Hundreds of supporters of President Bashar Assad gathered in Sabaa Bahrat Square in the city center chanting slogans in support of their beleaguered leader and against the sanctions ordered by the Arab League.

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Syria Agrees to Arab Protocol, Says Deal Doesn't 'Infringe Sovereignty'

Syria finally gave its agreement Monday to an Arab observer mission to monitor a deal to end nine months of bloodshed, ending weeks of prevarication that had prompted the Arab League to adopt sanctions.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Maqdad and Arab League Assistant Secretary General Ahmed Ben Helli inked the document at League headquarters in Cairo, an Agence France Presse correspondent reported.

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