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4 Killed as Syrian Troops Take Key Daraa Mosque

Syrian army troops backed by tanks and three helicopters on Saturday took a prominent mosque that had been controlled by residents in a besieged southern city killing four people, a witness said.

The operation in the town of Daraa came a day after President Bashar Assad unleashed deadly force to crush a months-old revolt, killing at least 65 people, mostly in the border town.

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Libya Rebel Council Rejects Gadhafi’s Call for Talks

The Libyan opposition Transitional National Council (TNC) on Saturday rejected calls for talks by strongman Moammer Gadhafi, saying he had no role to play in the north African nation's future.

"The time for compromise has passed," said Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, vice-chairman of the transitional council that has shaped itself into a parallel government in the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi.

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Six Killed During South Yemen Strike

Two servicemen and four civilians were killed and another 23 were wounded in south Yemen during a shutdown called by anti-government protesters on Saturday, officials said.

The ministry of defense said an officer and a soldier were killed and two more soldiers were wounded, but gave no further details, Agence France Presse reported.

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Top Military Officer: Gulf Belongs to Iran

A top Iranian military officer on Saturday denounced what he called an "Arab dictatorial front" and claimed that the "Persian Gulf has belonged to Iran forever", media reports said.

"The Arab dictatorial regimes in the Persian Gulf are unable to contain the popular uprisings," General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, was widely quoted as saying by Iranian media on Saturday.

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Taliban Announce Beginning of Spring Offensive

The Taliban on Saturday announced the beginning of their spring military offensive against the U.S.-led coalition, a day after a new Pentagon report claimed that the militants' fighting spirit was low after sustaining heavy losses on the battlefield, Associated Press reported.

In a two-page statement, the Taliban said that beginning Sunday they would launch attacks on military bases, convoys and Afghan officials, including members of the government's peace council, who are working to reconcile with top insurgent leaders.

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Haniya Ready to Resign for Reconciliation Agreement

Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of the Islamist Hamas movement in power in the Gaza Strip, said on Saturday he was "ready to resign."

"I am prepared to tender my resignation as part of the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah," the secular party of Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmud Abbas.

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King Abdullah Tightens Media Restrictions in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has imposed new media restrictions and threatened hefty fines and closure of news organizations allegedly undermining national security, press reports said on Saturday.

Under a decree issued on Friday, the media will be prohibited from reporting anything that contradicts the strict Islamic sharia law or serves "foreign interests and undermines national security," Agence France Presse reported.

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U.S. Slaps Sanctions on Maher al-Assad, Top Officials as EU Readies Arms Ban

The U.S. on Friday imposed new sanctions on Syria over its violent repression of protests, and again singled out Iran's Revolutionary Guard, which it said was aiding the crackdown, as the EU agreed to impose an arms embargo against Damascus.

The asset freezes and restrictions on financial transactions notably targeted Maher al-Assad, the powerful brother of President Bashar Al-Assad, who commands Syria's feared Fourth Armored Division.

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55 Dead on Syria 'Rage Day' as U.N. Rights Council Votes for Mission to Probe Violence

More than 50 Syrians were killed as tens of thousands of protesters rallied for a "day of rage" after Friday prayers, defying warnings of a harsh crackdown, rights activists and officials said.

Protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime were held in most major towns, witnesses said, in pro-democracy demonstrations after the Muslim weekly prayers as on past Fridays.

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Abbas, Meshaal to Ink Deal on Wednesday

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal will meet next week in Cairo with Palestinian president and Fatah leader Mahmud Abbas to sign a unity deal, a senior Fatah official said on Friday, Agence France Presse reported.

It will be the first time the two men have met since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, forcibly ousting Fatah from the coastal territory after days of bloody street battles.

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