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Assad Decrees that Kurds be Naturalized

President Bashar Assad on Thursday granted citizenship to Syria's Kurds, the majority in the northeast who have been denied nationality for nearly half a century, said SANA state news agency.

"President Assad issued a decree granting Arab Syrian citizenship to people registered as foreigners in the (governorate of Hassake)," said the news agency.

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Israeli Army Arrests 100 Women in West Bank

Israeli troops stormed Awarta village in the northern West Bank on Thursday, arresting more than 100 women as they hunted the killers of an Israeli family, officials said.

The military also used bulldozers to destroy Palestinian houses in a northern farming village east of Tubas, in an area under Israeli control, according to Palestinian security officials.

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Libya Contact Group to Meet April 13 in Doha

The international contact group on Libya will meet on April 13 in the Qatari capital Doha, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday.

France is trying "to convince the African Union to be present in Qatar next week because that's where the contact group is to meet on April 13," Juppe told lawmakers.

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Qatar Says Gulf States Expect Yemen's Saleh to Quit

Gulf States leading mediation efforts to end a political crisis in Yemen hope to reach a deal by which embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh would quit, Qatar's prime minister said on Thursday.

Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council "hope to reach a deal with the Yemeni president to step down," Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said according to QNA state news agency.

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Gates in Iraq to Meet Officials as U.S. Forces Near Pullout

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was set to meet Iraqi leaders Thursday after talks in Saudi Arabia where he sharply criticized Iran for exploiting unrest in the Gulf region and elsewhere.

Gates, who arrived in Baghdad on an unannounced visit Wednesday, will hold talks with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, according to officials traveling with him, and visit American troops who ended combat operations in August ahead of a scheduled withdrawal by the end of this year.

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Gates, Saudi King Discuss Regional Developments, Iran

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates held talks in Riyadh on Wednesday with Saudi King Abdullah, with both sides concerned by Iranian intentions in the region and spiraling unrest in Yemen.

"We talked about developments all over the region, obviously talked about Iran," Gates said following the meeting.

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Under-Fire NATO Vows to Protect Libya Civilians

NATO, accused of mission failure by Libyan rebels, admitted Wednesday it has to be "particularly careful" with its air strikes as government troops are using civilians as human shields, but vowed to do everything to protect civilians in Misrata.

France pledged to open a sea corridor to the besieged Mediterranean port and rebels played down losing considerable ground to government forces as just the usual stakes in desert warfare.

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Sudan Accuses Israel of Fatal Airstrike on Car

Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti accused Israel on Wednesday of carrying out an airstrike a day earlier on a car on Sudan's Red Sea coast that killed two people.

Karti's charge came as a number of Israeli newspapers spoke of the same thing, but the Israeli military and foreign ministry both declined to comment.

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Gadhafi Sends Message to Obama

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi on Wednesday sent a message to U.S. President Barack Obama, following the withdrawal of American warplanes from Libya, the official Libyan news agency JANA said.

"The leader of the revolution (Gadhafi) sent on Wednesday a message to U.S. President Barack Obama after the United States withdrew from the aggressive, colonialist coalition crusading against Libya," said the agency without specifying the contents of the message.

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Scores Missing after Libya Refugee Boat Capsizes

Scores of people were missing at sea on Wednesday after a tiny boat carrying more than 200 African migrants fleeing Libya capsized in the night amid three-meter-high waves, officials said.

Coast guard spokesman Vittorio Alessandro told Agence France Presse from the southern Italian island of Lampedusa that 48 survivors had been rescued and a helicopter crew aiding the high-seas rescue operation had spotted some 20 bodies near the boat.

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