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Palestinians Launch U.N. Bid Solidarity Campaign

Palestinians on Thursday kicked off a campaign of support for their bid to become the 194th state to join the United Nations, calling on U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon to back them.

The launch of the campaign, dubbed "National Campaign for Palestine: state 194", is part of the build-up to September 20, when Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is expected to submit the formal membership request.

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Yemen Ruling Party Wants Saleh to Allow Power-Transfer Talks

A delegation from Yemen's ruling party headed Thursday to Riyadh to seek permission from convalescing President Ali Abdullah Saleh for his deputy to negotiate a power-transfer plan with the opposition, a party official said.

"The delegation is heading to Riyadh to meet the president and ask him to authorize his deputy to start the dialogue" with the opposition, which is demanding Saleh's ouster, the official told Agence France Presse requesting anonymity.

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3 Syrian Defectors Killed by Security Forces as Crackdown Intensifies

Syria, accused by France of "crimes against humanity," on Thursday sent its security forces storming into a northwestern village where they killed three military defectors, rights activists said.

"A force comprising seven armored vehicles and 10 jeeps stormed the village of Ibleen in Jabal Al-Zawiyah (region) in search of people wanted by the security services," the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement.

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Crisis Grips Kuwait Amid Corruption Scandal

The wealthy Gulf state of Kuwait appeared headed Thursday for a major political crisis over allegations of corruption involving several members of parliament and former ministers.

Media reported that a number of banks planned to refer as many as 15 MPs and possibly former ministers to the public prosecution to investigate "suspicious" huge cash deposits into their accounts.

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Barak Stresses Crisis with Turkey 'Will Pass'

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak played down the diplomatic crisis with Ankara on Thursday, saying the current dispute over a deadly Israeli raid on a Turkish-led flotilla "will pass."

But he reiterated his government's line that Israel not apologize for the May 2010 operation which targeted a flotilla of ships trying to break Israel's naval blockade on Gaza, and cost the lives of nine Turkish nationals.

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Bahrain Releases Shiite Medics on Bail

A special Bahraini court has released on bail 20 Shiite medics being tried for their role in a month-long pro-democracy protest, including many who had gone on hunger strike, state news agency BNA said.

The national safety court, set up under a three-month quasi-emergency law declared by king Hamad ahead of the mid-March crackdown on the protest led by the Shiite majority, said the verdict will be issued on September 29, BNA reported late Wednesday.

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Gadhafi Says Reported Niger Crossing 'Lies'

Moammar Gadhafi on Thursday slammed reports he had fled to neighboring Niger as "psychological warfare and lies" in an audio message aired by the Damascus-based Arrai television channel.

"They have nothing else to resort to apart from psychological warfare and lies. They last said Gadhafi had been seen in a convoy heading towards Niger," he said in the first message from the fugitive deposed Libyan strongman in several days.

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NTC Demands Niger Stop Gadhafi Crossing Border

Libya's new leaders were Wednesday urgently seeking Niger's help in preventing Moammar Gadhafi, his family or his troops from crossing the border, as the hunt for the fugitive strongman intensified.

Gadhafi’s sole remaining media mouthpiece, Mishan al-Juburi, the owner of Syria-based Arrai Oruba television, said the defeated leader was still in Libya, along with his son Seif al-Islam.

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Arab League Says Arabi to Visit Syria Saturday

The Arab League said its secretary general, Nabil al-Arabi, will visit Syria on Saturday, three days later than originally planned amid a deadly crackdown on an anti-regime protests in the country.

"It was decided that the Arab League secretary general will visit Syria on Saturday during a telephone conversation between (Arabi), Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem and Syria's envoy at the League," the pan-Arab group's deputy leader, Ahmed Ben Helli, told reporters in Cairo.

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In Russia, Juppe Accuses Syria of 'Crimes against Humanity'

France on Wednesday accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime of committing crimes against humanity and expressed hope that Russia would soon join sanctions against its old regional ally.

"The Syrian regime has committed crimes against humanity," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said during talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

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