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Russian Delegation in Damascus for Talks

A group of Russian lawmakers arrived in Damascus Saturday to meet Moscow ally President Bashar Assad and opposition figures in a bid to broker talks aimed at ending violence in the country, news agencies reported.

"Russia cares about the fate of the Syrian people. That's why we want to find a way to stop a negative scenario developing," Russia's Interfax quoted Ilyas Uumakhanov, vice president of the Russian upper house, as saying.

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Israeli, Palestinian Women Demonstrate for State

Several hundred Palestinian and Israeli women demonstrated on Saturday on each side of Israel's Qalandiya checkpoint, the main passage point between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Assembling nearly a week ahead of a Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations Security Council, the women all gathered under the slogan "Women want an independent Palestine".

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Iraq Recovers $116 Million from Saddam Officials

Iraq has recovered $116 million from bank accounts in France belonging to an official from ex-dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, the country's anti-graft watchdog said in a statement seen on Saturday.

The Commission on Integrity said the funds comprised $106 million deposited in UBAF, a French-registered bank whose shareholders include 19 Arab banks and Credit Agricole, and the equivalent of $10 million in foreign currency deposited in several banks in France.

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Libya's NTC Battles on, Buoyed by U.N. Backing

Forces of Libya's new leadership battled diehard remnants of the fallen regime of Moammar Gadhafi on Saturday, after the U.N. eased sanctions and assigned its seat at the world body to the former rebels.

National Transitional Council forces swept further into Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte as at least 6,000 fighters battled in and around one of the ousted despot's final strongholds.

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EU Joins Diplomatic Wrangle on Palestinian Statehood

The European Union on Saturday called for a "constructive solution" on the issue of Palestinian statehood and a resumption of negotiations with Israel.

"We continue to believe that a constructive solution that can gather as much support as possible and allows for the resumption of negotiations is the best and only way to deliver the peace and two state solution the Palestinian people want," said Jaja Cocijanic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

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Khamenei Warns Arab Revolts against Trusting ‘Criminal’ West

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday warned those involved in popular Arab uprisings against trusting Western powers and their "promises," saying they should instead confide in Islam for solutions.

"Never trust America, NATO, and criminal regimes like Britain, France and Italy -- who for a long time divided your lands (among themselves) and plundered them," Khamenei said as he opened a two-day conference in Tehran on "Islamic Awakening" attended by several hundred guests from Arab countries.

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Russia, U.S. Discuss Controversial Palestinian Bid for Recognition

Top Russian and U.S. diplomats have discussed their differing positions surrounding a Palestinian bid for recognition as a state at the United Nations, the foreign ministry said on Saturday.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday phoned her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to discuss "certain issues of the Middle East situation," including a Palestinian bid to win U.N. statehood, the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

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Niger Says Won't Send Saadi Gadhafi Back to Libya

The Nigerien government said Friday it will not send fallen Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s son Saadi back home from Niger, where he fled after the collapse of the regime in Tripoli.

Asked by journalists if Niger would turn Gadhafi’s son over to Libya's new authorities, government spokesman Marou Amadou said, "No."

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Libya NTC Forces in 'Tactical' Withdrawal from Bani Walid

Fighters loyal to Libya's new leaders on Friday thrust deep into the city of Sirte and into desert oasis Bani Walid, two of fugitive Moammar Gadhafi’s few remaining bastions, Agence France Presse reporters said.

On the political front, officials in Tripoli said a new transitional government would be announced on Sunday, while the U.N. General Assembly gave Libya's U.N. seat to the former rebel National Transitional Council.

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Bahrain Forces Fire Tear Gas, Rubber Bullets at Funeral

Bahraini security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades Friday to disperse thousands of mourners at the funeral of a man who died after he himself was tear-gassed, a Shiite politician said.

"Security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the demonstrators while the majority of them were trying to leave at the end of the funeral," said Matar Matar, a senior member of Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's largest Shiite opposition formation.

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