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30 NTC Fighters Killed in Battle for Bani Walid

Fighting has claimed the lives of 30 interim government fighters in the campaign to capture the Gadhafi bastion of Bani Walid southeast of the Libyan capital, Dr. Mabruk Kernaf said on Saturday.

The National Transitional Council's northern front commander said another 50 had been wounded.

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Egypt Military Ruler Testifies in Mubarak Trial

Egypt's military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi arrived in court on Saturday to testify at the trial of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, a security official told AFP.

Tantawi, who is the de facto head of state since a popular uprising toppled Mubarak in February, is one of the highest profile witnesses called to testify at the former president's trial.

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Poor Turnout in Boycotted Bahrain By-Elections

A low turnout on Saturday marked the start of polling in Bahraini by-elections boycotted by the Shiite opposition after it walked out of parliament over violence against pro-democracy activists.

The elections are being held to replace 18 MPs of the main Shiite opposition formation Al-Wefaq, who resigned in February shortly after protests triggered a deadly response from the authorities in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom.

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17 Killed in Attack on Yemen Protesters

Troops loyal to Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh killed at least 17 people in an assault early on Saturday in the capital Sanaa, witnesses and a medic told AFP.

"Seventeen people were killed and 55 others were wounded" in the attack, said Mohammed al-Qabati, a medic at the field hospital in Sanaa's Change Square.

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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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