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Barak: More Sanctions on Iran Could Prevent it From Acquiring More Atomic Weapons

The showdown over Iran's nuclear pursuit is "still in the stage of diplomacy," and extended sanctions against the regime could help prevent it from acquiring atomic weapons, Israel's defense minister said in comments broadcast Sunday.

"I think that it's still in the stage of diplomacy," Ehud Barak told CNN in an interview.

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Sand, Snow, Thunderstorms Wreak Havoc Across Middle East

Winds, rain and hail battered the eastern Mediterranean for a second day on Sunday, wreaking havoc across the region as a months-long drought came to a sudden, drastic end.

Drought-stricken countries across the Middle East had been praying for rain for weeks when weather conditions turned violent at the weekend, with at least four people killed and another feared dead as gale-force winds and torrential rain pounded the coastline.

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Palestinians Skeptical After U.S. Freeze Failure

Palestinian officials expressed doubt and frustration on Sunday about the future of peace talks after the United States failed to secure a new settlement freeze.

n a speech on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged that Washington would remain engaged despite the failure, encouraging the two sides to address core issues through indirect talks

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Six Police among 10 Killed in Iraq Suicide Attacks

Suicide attacks targeting a police checkpoint and a Shiite Muslim procession in western and central Iraq on Sunday killed 10 people, including six policemen, police and a doctor said.

The violence comes two weeks ahead of a deadline for Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki to form a cabinet in a bid to end months of government impasse, and days before the climax of the Shiite commemoration ceremony of Ashura on Friday.

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Two Palestinians Killed in Gaza Firing

Two suspected Palestinian militants died and an Israeli soldier was wounded late Saturday in an exchange of gunfire near the border of the Gaza Strip with Israel, the Israeli army announced.

Soldiers spotted the two Palestinians near the security barrier separating Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza and opened fire, killing them after a gun battle lasting some 20 minutes, an army spokesman said.

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Syria-Saudi Agreement on Lebanon Waits for Signal from King Abdullah

A Syrian-Saudi initiative aimed at finding a solution to the Lebanese crisis waits for a signal from Saudi King Abdullah, As-Safir newspaper reported Friday.

It cited a source who followed up on a visit to Paris by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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Abbas from Cairo: No Talks as Long as Settlements Continue

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday ruled out negotiations with Israel as long as it refuses to freeze settlement building, but did not specify if he would agree to indirect talks.

"We will not accept negotiations as long as settlements continue," Abbas told reporters in Cairo after more than one hour of talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

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Egypt Calls for 'End Game' in Mideast Peace Talks

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit urged the international community on Wednesday to call an "end game" in Middle East peace talks and set clear deadlines for reaching Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

"The Egyptian view is as follows: Let's agree on an end game," Abul Gheit said after talks in Sofia with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolay Mladenov.

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Experts Race to Solve Egypt Shark Attack Mystery

Marine experts on Wednesday quizzed witnesses to shark attacks as beaches at Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh remained closed after a woman was torn apart by a shark.

South Sinai governor Mohammed Shosha told Agence France Presse authorities would announce later in the day whether they would reopen beaches which are visited each year by between three and four million tourists.

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Mideast Peace Efforts in 'Crisis' as U.S. Fails in Settlement Freeze Bid

The Middle East peace process lay in tatters Wednesday after Washington admitted defeat in its efforts to secure an Israeli freeze on settlement building, the Palestinians' condition for resuming talks.

Speaking late on Tuesday, U.S. officials admitted top-level efforts to coax Israel into imposing new curbs on West Bank settlement construction had gone nowhere, prompting Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to declare a crisis in peace efforts but backslapping among Israeli hardliners.

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