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U.S. Slaps Sanctions on Syria Security Agencies, Iran Police

Washington said Wednesday it was setting sanctions on Syria's Political Security Directorate for human rights abuses, citing two incidents when its agents shot down protesters in March and April.

Also named in the sanctions were the country's air force intelligence chief, Major General Jamil Hassan, and Iran's national police for "providing support to the Syrian regime."

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Seven Dead as Syrian Troops Storm Two Northwest Villages

Syrian troops killed seven civilians on Wednesday when they stormed two villages in the northwest to quash dissent against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, a rights activist said.

The latest military action came as hundreds of lawyers staged a sit-in in the second city of Aleppo calling for freedom and the release of prisoners and regime loyalists held a counter-protest, activists said.

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Bahrain Launches Probe into Month-Long Unrest

Bahrain on Wednesday set up an independent committee of legal experts to investigate the bloody unrest during anti-regime protests in February and March, state news agency BNA reported.

Ordered by King Hamad, the five-man panel will be chaired by Mahmud Sharif Bassiouni, an international expert in criminal law.

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French Military Confirms Arms Drops to Libyan Rebels

France has air dropped arms to Libyan rebels in mountains south of Tripoli who are eyeing an assault on the capital, it said Wednesday, a day after anti-regime forces captured a network of weapons caches.

But the increasingly emboldened rebels were under a deadly assault from veteran strongman Moammar Gadhafi's forces in the third-largest city Misrata, where rockets killed one civilian and wounded six late Tuesday, residents said.

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Iraq Sentences Qaida Chief's Widow to Life

A Baghdad court has handed a life jail sentence to the widow of al-Qaida's top chief in Iraq, killed last year in a joint US-Iraqi military raid, a judiciary official said on Wednesday.

Abdel Sattar al-Beriqdar, spokesman of Iraq's High Council of Justice, told Agence France Presse the woman was an Iraqi, but identified her only by her initials.

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Hardline Arab-Israeli Imam Held in Britain

Controversial Arab-Israeli Islamist leader Sheikh Raed Saleh has been arrested in London after entering Britain in defiance of a government ban, Home Secretary Theresa May said Wednesday.

The British authorities have begun arrangements to deport Saleh, who is the head of the radical northern wing of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and have launched an investigation into how he managed to enter the country, she said.

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Yemen Air Raid Kills 4 Civilians

A Yemeni air raid on a convoy of vehicles near the militant-held southern city of Zinjibar killed four civilians and wounded 12 on Wednesday, medical sources and witnesses said.

The convoy that was hit had left Zinjibar for the main southern city of Aden but was forced to come to a halt when fighting erupted between government troops and the militants, witnesses said.

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Ahmadinejad Warns Cabinet is 'Red Line'

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday warned the authorities against making arrests of members in his government whom he vowed to defend, the official IRNA news agency reported.

"I consider defending the cabinet as my duty... the cabinet is a red line and if they want to touch the cabinet, then defending it is my duty," Ahmadinejad was quoted as telling reporters after a cabinet meeting.

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50 Injured as Cairo Clashes Enter Second Day

Around 50 people were injured in overnight clashes between protesters and police in central Cairo, officials said, as new scuffles erupted on Wednesday morning.

Anti-riot police were deployed around Tahrir Square -- the epicenter of protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February -- and near the interior ministry building in central Cairo, an Agence France Presse reporter said.

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Report: France Air Drops Arms to Libya Rebels

France has begun parachuting arms shipments to Berber rebels fighting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces in the highlands south of Tripoli, the French daily Le Figaro reported on Wednesday.

According to the paper, which said it had seen a secret intelligence memo and talked to well-placed officials, the air drops are designed to help rebel fighters encircle Tripoli and encourage a popular revolt in the city itself.

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