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Libya Rebel Group Wants NTC Ministers Fired over Younis Murder

The unity of Libya's revolutionaries on Wednesday became the latest casualty of the shock assassination of a top general, as a key rebel group demanded senior ministers and military brass be fired.

The head of the February 17 Coalition -- whose members kick-started the revolt against Moammar Gadhafi -- told Agence France Presse the ministers of defense and international affairs must be sacked in the wake of last week's murder of General Abdul Fatah Younis.

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White House: Syria would be a Better Place without Assad

The United States Wednesday said it had no interest in seeing Syria's President Bashar al-Assad survive simply to preserve regional "stability," hardening its line on what it termed a "grotesque" crackdown on dissent.

Some analysts have speculated that Washington has been wary of directly calling for Assad to quit because of anxiety that security chaos, civil war and a Middle East power vacuum might follow the demise of his regime.

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Security Council Condemns Syria Crackdown on Protests as Tanks Storm Hama

The United Nations condemned on Wednesday the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on protests and called for those responsible to be held "accountable," as tanks stormed the protest hub of Hama.

A Security Council statement agreed after weeks of often-acrimonious talks said the body "condemns the widespread violations of human rights and the use of force against civilians by the Syrian authorities."

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Revolutionary Guards Commander Becomes Iran's New Oil Minister

Iran's conservative dominated parliament on Wednesday endorsed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's pick, a Revolutionary Guards commander targeted by international sanctions, to head the key oil ministry.

Brigadier General Rostam Qasemi ran the sanctions-hit industrial wing of the elite Guards, Khatam al-Anbiya, which is highly active in the country's oil sector.

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U.N. Rights Investigator Urges Tehran to Grant Visit

The U.N.'s newly appointed human rights investigator to Iran called Wednesday on Tehran to allow him to visit the country to examine alleged rights violations there.

"I issued a written communication to the Iranian authorities to introduce myself and express my interest in visiting the country," Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N.'s special rapporteur on the situation in Iran, said in a statement.

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Mubarak, Sons Plead Not Guilty to Murder and Corruption

Egypt's ex-president Hosni Mubarak was wheeled into court on a stretcher on Wednesday and denied murder and graft charges, as sporadic clashes erupted outside between his supporters and his foes.

The former strongman, looking pale and dressed in white, pleaded not guilty from a metal-barred cage to the premeditated murder of protesters who took to the streets to topple his regime in an uprising that erupted on January 25.

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Three Policemen Killed in Baghdad Liquor Store Blasts

Successive bombings targeting an alcohol shop on Baghdad's western outskirts killed three policemen at the beginning of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, a security official said on Wednesday.

The blasts, which occurred late on Tuesday in the suburb of Rasala, also left 14 other people wounded, including three policemen, the interior ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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Gaza Rocket Hits Southern Israel

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel on Wednesday, causing no damage or injuries, an Israeli police source told Agence France Presse.

The rocket, which landed in the southern Ashkelon region, comes amid increased fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

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Israel Offered Mubarak Medical Care

An Israeli ex-minister known for his close ties to Hosni Mubarak said on Wednesday he had offered the former president medical treatment in Israel during a meeting before the Egyptian uprising.

Speaking to Israeli military radio, Binyamin Ben Eliezer said he made the offer to Mubarak during a meeting attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

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Iraq to Open Talks with U.S. on Training Mission beyond 2011 Pullout

Iraq will open talks with Washington over a military training mission to last beyond a 2011 pullout deadline, Baghdad's Foreign Minister said on Wednesday, after months of U.S. appeals for a decision.

The move is a key first step to reaching an agreement on the future of the U.S. troop presence here, with Admiral Mike Mullen, the top American military officer, warning a day earlier that time was running out to strike a deal.

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