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HRW Demands UAE Release 5 Activists on Trial

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday urged Emirati authorities to drop charges against five activists, including a blogger and a lecturer, facing trial for "criticizing" the government.

"The United Arab Emirates attorney general should immediately drop all charges against five pro-democracy activists to halt their trial," the New York-based watchdog said.

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Libya Rebels Advance West, NATO Says No Need for Ground Troops

Libyan rebels captured two western villages on the road to Tripoli on Wednesday, as NATO insisted it could complete its mission without putting soldiers on the ground against strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

The Western military alliance which has carried out 10 weeks of air strikes against Gadhafi's forces can see out its mission without ground troops, its operations commander said in a briefing on an Italian aircraft carrier.

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Five Iraqi Soldiers Killed in Shootings

Five Iraqi soldiers were killed on Wednesday in a spate of shootings against patrols and checkpoints in Baghdad and the main northern city of Mosul, security officials said.

The violence, which also included a roadside bomb blast within an Iraqi army base that left 11 soldiers wounded, came just a day after attacks on government offices in central Iraq that killed seven people and mirrored a March raid claimed by al-Qaida.

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Yemen Warns Qatar over Dissident Funding

Yemen said Wednesday it intercepted financial transfers made through Qatar to fund dissidents, warning the energy rich Gulf state to stop supporting divisions in the strife-torn country.

"The authorities have discovered transactions made through Qatar and the mediator in this is our former ambassador (in Cairo) Abdulwali al-Shumeiri," deputy information minister Abdo al-Janadi told reporters.

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Pro-Assad Syrians Rally in Damascus as Global Outcry Grows

Thousands of supporters of Bashar Assad demonstrated Wednesday on the outskirts of Damascus as the embattled president came under intense world pressure to halt a crackdown on democracy protests.

Flag-waving pro-regime demonstrators lined a highway leading to the posh residential suburb of al-Mezze in western Damascus where a huge flag measuring 2.3 kilometers was unfurled, state television showed.

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Assad Envoy to Holds Talks with Turkey PM

An envoy of Syrian President Bashar Assad was to hold talks on Wednesday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has been urging the Damascus regime to halt its crackdown on protesters.

Erdogan would host afternoon talks with Hassan Turkmani in Ankara on "the developments in Syria", a government source told Agence France Presse.

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'Qaida' Gunmen Kill Yemeni Police as Attacks Spread

Dozens of alleged al-Qaida gunmen attacked security and government buildings in the southern Yemeni town of Huta on Wednesday killing a policeman and wounding six others, medics and residents said.

Fierce clashes broke out at dawn between the armed men and police around the local branches of intelligence and central bank, and the courts in Huta, in the Lahij province, residents said.

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Israel Wants 30 'No' Votes against Recognizing Palestinian State

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping to convince at least 30 countries to vote against recognizing a Palestinian state should the United Nations debate the issue in September, media reports said.

"Before we reach September, we have to push through an initiative to secure 30 countries and more who will say 'no' to the unilateral recognition in the U.N. General Assembly," the Israeli premier was quoted as saying by news website Ynet.

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Gulf Neighbors Vow to Press Yemen Mediation Efforts

Oil-rich Gulf states will press their efforts to broker an end to a political crisis in impoverished Yemen, the UAE foreign minister said on Tuesday.

"The unstable situation in Yemen is top of our agenda," Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan told a foreign ministers' meeting of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah.

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10 Libyan Shells Breach Tunisia Border

Shells and rockets fired during combat in battle-torn Libya breached the border with Tunisia on Tuesday, witnesses told Agence France Presse, one reporting a large Tunisian military presence on the frontier.

A resident told AFP he counted 10 shells that landed inside Tunisian territory, some of them north of the city of Oued Erouth in a district to the west of Dehiba, about 1.5 kilometers from the border.

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