Middle East
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Egypt Army Says Won't Cede Control of Transition

Egyptian protesters who carried Prime Minister Essam Sharaf on their shoulders to celebrate his appointment in March have now unleashed their full wrath on him for failing to deliver on promised change.

Five months after president Hosni Mubarak was ousted by a popular revolt, pro-democracy activists fear their revolution is in jeopardy, and accuse the ruling military council of maintaining an absolute grip on power that blocks the democratic path.

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Possible Diplomatic Breakthrough in Libyan Crisis

French and Libyan officials talked up Tuesday the chances of negotiating Moammar Gadhafi's withdrawal from power and an end to the conflict wracking his country, after months of military stalemate.

Gadhafi's own prime minister told a French daily that the embattled regime was ready to begin talks with Paris and Libyan rebels "without preconditions" and without the interference of its authoritarian "Guide".

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Syria Accuses Clinton of 'Incitement'

Syria on Tuesday accused U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of "incitement" after she said President Bashar Assad has lost legitimacy and the right to remain in power.

"Syria vigorously condemns the remarks of the U.S. secretary of state that amount to further proof of the flagrant interference of the United States in the internal affairs of Syria," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

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Swiss to Open Office in Libya's Rebel Stronghold Benghazi

Switzerland said Tuesday it is dispatching a diplomat to the rebel-held Libyan city of Benghazi to open an office aimed at strengthening its ties with the Libyan National Transitional Council.

"By sending a special envoy to Benghazi, Switzerland is signaling its intent to strengthen its presence there, and to intensify its political relations with the Libyan National Transitional Council," said the Swiss Foreign Ministry.

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France Seeks U.N. Security Council Action on Syria

France renewed its demand that the United Nations Security Council take a stance on the crisis in Syria on Tuesday, after mobs backing President Bashar Assad attacked the U.S. and French embassies.

"France and other European countries have submitted a proposed resolution to the U.N. Security Council, which has been blocked by Russia and China," Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Europe 1 radio.

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Ahmadinejad Urges Arab Leaders to Accept Reform

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Arab governments to heed popular demands for reform at a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the presidential website said on Tuesday.

"Today, the people of the region must enjoy equal rights, the right to vote, security and dignity, and no government can deprive them of freedom and justice or refuse their peoples' demands," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

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France Denies Negotiating with Libya, Says Only had Contact

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday that France had had "contacts" with the Libyan regime concerning the departure of leader Moammar Gadhafi but no real negotiations had taken place.

"There have indeed been contacts, but it has not turned into a real negotiation," he told France Info radio station. "The Libyan regime is sending messengers everywhere: to Turkey, New York, Paris," he said.

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Strong Blast Hits Egyptian Gas Pipeline

Saboteurs bombed an Egyptian gas pipeline in the Sinai Peninsula for the fourth time since February, cutting supplies to Israel and Jordan, the official MENA news agency reported Tuesday.

The blast occurred near the town of al-Arish in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, it said, adding that the ensuing "flames were up to 10 meters high.

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Clinton Says Assad has 'Lost Legitimacy' and 'is Not Indispensable'

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Syrian leader Bashar Assad had "lost legitimacy" after loyalists attacked the U.S. and French embassies for alleged meddling in internal affairs.

Angry mobs besieged the U.S. and French missions Monday after the countries' ambassadors last week traveled to the flashpoint protest city of Hama.

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Iran Threatens to Attack Kurdish Rebels across Iraq Border

Tehran "reserves the right" to attack the bases of an Iranian Kurdish separatist group across the Iraq border, the official IRNA news agency quoted an army official as saying on Monday.

"We reserve the right to attack and destroy terrorist bases in border areas" near the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan, the agency quoted the unnamed senior official as saying.

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