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U.S. Soldier Killed after Iraq Pullout Announcement

A U.S. soldier has been killed in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said on Friday, the first American service member to die in an attack here since the U.S. announced its forces would depart by year's end.

"A U.S. service member was killed Thursday while conducting operations in northern Iraq," the military said in a brief statement, without providing further details.

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Qantas A380 in Mid-Air Engine Mishap Lands in Dubai

Embattled Australian carrier Qantas on Friday diverted one of its A380s to Dubai because of engine problems; a year to the day after a turbine blast in another of its superjumbos rocked the airline.

QF31 was four hours into the flight from Singapore to London, carrying 258 passengers and 25 crew, when the pilot decided that the oil pressure in one engine made it "absolutely important" to change course, a spokeswoman said.

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Oman Storm Kills 11, Including 2 Children

Eleven people, including two children, have been killed in flash floods caused by heavy rains that have hit Oman over the past three days, the Arabian Peninsula state's police announced on Thursday.

"Eleven people died in several of the sultanate's provinces when their vehicles were swept by heavy rains as they drove through valleys," state news agency ONA quoted a police statement as saying.

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Irish Activists Seek Safe Passage for Gaza Aid Ships

Irish activists supporting a new bid to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip urged their government on Thursday to seek Israeli assurances that a new aid flotilla would be allowed free passage.

The two vessels, the Irish Saoirse (meaning Freedom) and the Canadian Tahrir (Liberation in Arabic) which are carrying 27 people, are south-west of Cyprus and expect to reach Gaza by Friday, the activists told a press conference in Dublin.

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Rights Groups: UAE Trial of 5 Activists 'Grossly Unfair'

Human rights groups on Thursday criticized the United Arab Emirates' trial of five activists accused of insulting top officials as "grossly unfair."

The trial of the five accused of "publicly insulting" the officials "has been grossly unfair, and the case against them has no basis in international law as it violates their freedom of expression," said a statement by a coalition of international human rights organizations.

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Qaida Suspects Wound Yemen Consultative Council Member

A member of Yemen's consultative council and an army colonel were wounded on Thursday when their car was fired on by presumed al-Qaida militants, tribal sources said.

"Militants, suspected of belonging to al-Qaida, opened fire with a barrage of bullets at the car of Mohammed al-Haithami Ashal as he was heading towards Sanaa, wounding him in the leg," said a source from the Ashal tribe.

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Elderly 'Beaten to Death' by Bahrain Police

The elderly father of the second in command of Bahrain's largest Shiite opposition group Al-Wefaq died of his injuries on Thursday after riot police attacked him a day earlier, the organization said.

"Ali Hassan al-Dehi, 70, was attacked by riot police forces Wednesday evening" and died early Thursday, Al-Wefaq's website reported.

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EU Urges Syria to Enact Arab Plan 'Fully and Rapidly'

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Syria on Thursday to implement "fully and rapidly" an Arab League plan to end months of bloodshed.

"I welcome the efforts of the Arab League to end violence and bring about the reforms that the Syrian people have bravely demanded these last seven months," she said in a statement.

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Timeline: Syrian President's Trail of Promises

Following is a list of successive promises made by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad towards introducing reforms and ending the opposition protest movement.

March 2011: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in his first public statement since the start of protests on March 15, says Syria is facing a "conspiracy."

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Analysts: Arabs Throw Lifeline to Embattled Assad

The Arab League plan accepted by Damascus to end the bloodshed in Syria is a life raft for President Bashar al-Assad's regime as it sets no real deadlines and stipulates no implementation mechanisms, analysts say.

"The Arab countries are trying to save one of their pillars from falling, and it's not clear that they seek to save the Syrian people," said London-based analyst Abdul Wahab Badrkhan.

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