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Palestinian U.N. Joy, But Difficult Questions Remain

Palestinians basked in the joy of their historic U.N. bid on Saturday, but difficult questions about the move's consequences and the future of their dream of statehood remained.

On Friday night, tens of thousands of people packed into the centers of cities across the West Bank to cheer their president Mahmoud Abbas as he urged the United Nations General Assembly to approve the membership request.

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UAE Voters Cast Ballots in Limited Polls

Voters chosen by the rulers of the United Arab Emirates began casting their ballots on Saturday in only the second-ever polls to elect half of the members of the powerless Federal National Council.

Men dressed in traditional Emirati white gowns and women wearing black abaya cloaks trickled into a large polling center at a conventions complex in Dubai.

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Abbas Asks U.N. to Admit State of Palestine

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made history in his people's long quest for statehood as he formally asked the United Nations on Friday to admit Palestine as a full member state.

Snubbing fierce opposition from Israel and its regional ally the United States, Abbas handed a formal application to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon at 11:35 am (1535 GMT) buoyed by more than 120 nations which have already recognized a Palestinian state.

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France Warns of 'Dead End' for Palestinian U.N. Bid

The Palestinians' attempt to get the U.N. Security Council to recognize their statehood is headed towards a "dead end", France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe warned Friday in a television interview.

Separately, Juppe's spokesman said France's suggestion that Palestine be given an intermediate status as a United Nations observer nation remained on the table, despite what he said were "Israeli reservations".

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9 Killed as Syrian Protesters Call for 'Unity of the Opposition'

At least nine deaths were reported in Syria on Friday, a traditional day for protests, as the EU and Switzerland both said they were widening sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement that nine civilians were shot dead by security forces in the Homs area in the center of the country.

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EU Bans Oil Investments in Syria

The European Union widened sanctions against Syria on Friday, banning new investments in the oil sector and prohibiting the delivery of bank notes to the Syrian central bank.

"The EU restrictive measures are designed to have maximum impact on the Syrian regime, while minimizing any potential negative impacts on the Syrian population," said EU chief diplomat Catherine Ashton.

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Switzerland Slaps Fresh Sanctions on Syria, Targets Oil Products

Switzerland on Friday announced fresh sanctions on Syria, saying that it would impose an embargo on the import, sales and transport of Syrian oil and oil products.

"Due to the relentless repression imposed by the Syrian security forces, the Federal Council has decided to tighten sanctions against Syria," said the Swiss economy ministry in a statement.

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Israel Rejects Sarkozy’s Compromise on Palestinian State

Israel on Friday rejected a proposal by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to upgrade the Palestinians' U.N. status and admit them as a non-member state, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

"This may seem like a good idea on the surface but in reality you can't cut corners by giving the Palestinians a state, however you describe it, which does not come from an agreement with Israel," Yigal Palmor told Agence France Presse.

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Yemen President Back in Sanaa after 3 Months in Saudi

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to Sanaa on Friday after more than three months of medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, even as his forces were battling dissident troops in the capital.

Saleh's surprise return was announced by state television. He arrived by plane in Sanaa at 5:00 am (02:00 GMT), an airport source told Agence France Presse.

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Israel Boosts Security Ahead of Palestinian U.N. Bid

Israel on Friday will raise its level of security alertness in case unrest accompanies Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's application for U.N. membership for a Palestinian state, police said.

"We will be heightening security by one level in general. This is being coordinated by the military, border police and Israel police," police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told Agence France Presse.

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