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Paris Says Syria Arab Mission Still Crucial despite Resignations

France said on Thursday it respected the decision of some Arab League observers to resign from the Syria monitoring mission but said it remained crucial to ending repression.

Arab League officials confirmed that two monitors had quit the mission, including an Algerian who accused the Syrian regime of duping his colleagues.

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Syrian National Council Says Regime 'Liquidating' Journalists

The opposition Syrian National Council accused the regime on Thursday of "liquidating" journalists in order to hush up what is happening in the country, a day after a French reporter was killed.

The SNC's accusation came as France demanded an investigation into the death the previous day of Gilles Jacquier, 43, who worked for France 2 television, during a government-organized trip to the flashpoint city of Homs.

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China Envoy Meets Arabi, Says Monitors Face Tough Mission in Syria

China's envoy to the Middle East Wu Sike on Thursday said Arab League observers were facing "difficulties" in Syria, urging the government and other factions there to cooperate with the monitors.

Wu made the remarks after talks with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi at the bloc's Cairo headquarters, days after three monitors were slightly hurt in the Syrian coastal city of Latakia.

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N. African al-Qaida Warns EU States against Hostage Rescue Bid

Al-Qaida's north African branch warned European states including France Thursday against a military bid to rescue hostages kidnapped in Mali, citing "information" of plans for such an operation.

"We send a warning to France, Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden: if they authorize this operation it will mean the death of their nationals and amount to an attempt on their lives," it said in a statement in Arabic.

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Russia Warns of U.S. Strike on Iran, Libya Scenario in Syria

Russian Security Council secretary Nikolai Patrushev warned that military escalation is likely in Iran, with "real danger" of a U.S. strike, in an interview published Thursday.

He added that Syria, which has refused to break its ties with Tehran, could also be a target for Western intervention.

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Two Arab League Observers Quit Syria

Two Arab League monitors in Syria have quit, officials said on Thursday as the head of the operation accused an Algerian observer who resigned of making unfounded claims about the operation.

"Two monitors have excused themselves, an Algerian and an Sudanese," Syria operations chief Adnan Khodeir said at Arab League headquarters in Cairo.

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Four Americans Held in Iraq over Suspicious Activity

Four Americans were being held by security forces after they were stopped for "suspicious" activity in the center of Baghdad on Thursday, the governor of Baghdad province told Agence France Presse.

The two men and two women were driving a BMW with local license plates, rather than diplomatic registration, and were all wearing flak jackets and armed with pistols and automatic weapons, said Salah Abdulrazzaq, who described the group as "gunmen."

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20 Killed in Sunni, Shiite Clashes in Yemen

Twenty gunmen were killed Thursday in clashes between Zaidi Shiite rebels and Sunni Salafists in northern Yemen, a security official said.

Clashes erupted in the morning in the northwestern Hajjah province between rebel gunmen, known as Huthis, and Sunni extremists, the local official told Agence France Presse.

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Abbas to Visit Europe over Settlement Construction

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will on Sunday begin a week-long European tour to Britain, Germany and Russia, his spokesman said on Thursday.

"Abbas will go on Sunday to London, and meet with Prime Minister David Cameron and other British officials on Monday and will brief them on the latest political developments in the region," Nabil Abu Rudeina to Agence France Presse.

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Syrian Forces Kill 32, Fire on Protesters in Presence of Monitors

Syrian security forces on Thursday shot dead 32 people across the country, activists said, as a rights group said troops opened fire on anti-regime protesters as they tried to approach Arab League monitors in the country’s northwest.

The Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said security forces killed 30 civilians and two army deserters in several regions.

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