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Maliki to Iraqis: Explode, But Not Like a Bomb

Leader of a country that regularly suffers deadly attacks, Nouri al-Maliki joked on Sunday that while Iraq needed to unleash the explosive energy of its people, he did not mean "like a car bomb."

Marking the end of an agreement with Washington that allowed U.S. troops to be stationed in the country, Iraq's prime minister said that though the task of rebuilding would be difficult, he believed there was "energy in our people."

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Sadr Criticizes Iraq Shiite Militia Offshoot Backed by Iran

Anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr sharply criticized an offshoot of his movement on Sunday, accusing them of killing Iraqi soldiers and policemen and being beholden to neighboring Iran.

It is the first time Sadr, who is himself judged by critics as close to Tehran, has publicly stated that Asaib Ahel al-Haq, or the League of the Righteous, is supported by the Islamic Republic.

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7 Dead as Syrians Ring in New Year with Anti-Regime Demos

Syrian pro-democracy protesters saw the New Year in with demonstrations, activists said, as a child was reportedly shot dead, becoming the first victim in 2012 of the regime's crackdown on dissent.

The Local Coordination Committees, the main activist group spurring protests on the ground, said security forces shot dead four people in the central flashpoint province of Homs and three in the central province of Hama.

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Tahrir Square Rings in New Year with Fireworks and Candles

Thousands of Egyptians packed Cairo's Tahrir Square under a blaze of fireworks to ring in the New Year, capping a roller coaster year of political upheaval and deadly clashes but also the first steps towards democratic rule.

"We're here to welcome the New Year together, Christians and Muslims," said one woman holding an Egyptian flag.

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Abbas Warns of Quartet Failure on Peace Talks

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned in an interview on Sunday that the international peacemaking Quartet will have "failed" if it cannot kickstart negotiations by January 26.

"If the Quartet can't get the Israeli and Palestinian sides to the table by January 26, it means they have failed and the Palestinian leadership will study its position and act accordingly," he told Palestine TV.

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Arab League Dispute over Syria Snipers Claim

Arab League officials monitoring violence in Syria appear to be in conflict over whether government snipers are perched on rooftops in the southern flashpoint city of Daraa.

In a video released by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a man wearing an orange vest with the Arab League logo said in Daraa: "There are snipers; we have seen them with our own eyes."

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Mortar Shells Fired from Gaza Land in Israel

Two mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel on Sunday, causing no damage or injuries, an Israeli police spokeswoman said.

"Two mortar shells fired from the northern Gaza Strip fell this morning in the Eshkol district, there was no damage or injuries," Luba Samri told AFP.

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Palestinians Say to Seek U.N., Arab League Talks on Settlement

Palestinian leaders decided on Saturday to seek sessions of the U.N. Security Council and the Arab League, hoping for action to halt Israeli settlement.

A statement by the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization said continued settlement growth in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem was liable "to destroy all chances of a peace process and the two-state solution."

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Two Yemen Soldiers Killed in Clashes with Qaida Suspects

Two Yemeni soldiers and two suspected al-Qaida militants were killed in clashes overnight near the restive southern city of Zinjibar, a military source said on Saturday.

Three soldiers and four members of the Partisans of Sharia, an al-Qaida-linked insurgent group that took over most of Zinjibar earlier this year, were wounded in the fighting, the source said.

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Hundreds of Kurds Protest Death of 'Separatist Rebels'

Hundreds of Kurds staged a violent protest Saturday in southeastern Turkey after police said two Kurdish rebels had been killed in a gun battle after a raid on their hideout.

The protestors demonstrated near where the two alleged members of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) died earlier in the center of Diyarbakir, the main city of the majority Kurdish region.

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