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Italy Calls for Halt to Hostilities in Libya, China Recognizes Transitional Council

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called on Wednesday for an immediate halt to hostilities in Libya to allow humanitarian aid to reach the population in the strife-torn country.

Frattini called for "an immediate humanitarian suspension of hostilities" in Libya during a speech to the lower house of parliament.

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U.S. Defends Ambassador’s Participation in Tour Organized by Assad Regime

The Obama administration has struggled to explain why its ambassador to Syria participated in a sanitized trip to the country's restive north that was sponsored by President Bashar Assad's regime to attempt to justify its military crackdown.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday's trip to the abandoned town of Jisr al-Shughour allowed Ambassador Robert Ford to "see for himself the results of the Syrian government's brutality."

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Obama Warns of New Tactical Spats with Israel

President Barack Obama warned Monday that new "tactical" disagreements loomed between Israel and Washington, but vowed to leverage his administration's "creative powers" in the cause of peace.

Obama, who has had a testy relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke at length on the stalled peace process at a fundraiser for his 2012 reelection campaign grouping Democratic friends of Israel.

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U.N. Chief Urges Syria's Assad to Make Reforms

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday to make credible reforms "without delay," after the Syrian leader offered a national dialogue to end months of anti-regime protests.

"He urges the president to carry on these reforms without delay and in a way that is both genuine and credible," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

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Israel Okays Materials to Build Gaza Homes, Schools

Israel has approved the delivery to the Gaza Strip of materials to build 1,200 homes and 18 schools in U.N.-run projects, a defense official told Agence France Presse on Tuesday.

The decision came shortly before the scheduled departure of an international convoy seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza and as Israeli officials argued that there is no humanitarian crisis there.

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Yemen's Saleh 'Well' but Date of Return Uncertain

Wounded Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is "well" but the date of his return cannot be confirmed, the deputy information minister said on Tuesday, amid conflicting reports on the embattled leader's health.

"We have no confirmation yet" on the date of the return of Saleh, recovering in Riyadh from wounds sustained in an explosion as he prayed at his palace mosque earlier this month, "but we assume he'll be back within the few coming days," Abdo al-Janadi told Agence France Presse.

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Abbas in Turkey for Talks with Top Leaders

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Ankara Tuesday for talks with Turkish leaders amid disagreements over the formation of a Palestinian unity government, officials said.

Abbas will have a "private program" before talks with Turkish leaders on Thursday and Friday, a Turkish diplomat told Agence France Presse, without giving other details.

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Gadhafi Army Mining South of Tripoli

The army of Moammar Gadhafi has laid land mines in Libya's Nafusa Mountains to counter rebel attacks there, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.

The mountains, which lie to the south of Tripoli, have been the site of clashes between the two sides, as the rebels attempt to edge toward the capital.

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Tunisians Voice Unease over Ben Ali Quick Verdict

Tunisian authorities came under fire Tuesday for their high-speed sentencing in absentia of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his wife to 35 years in jail for embezzling public funds.

The court's quick verdict Monday after only six hours of deliberation on the first day of the landmark trial was dismissed as a "charade" by some Tunisians and a "joke" by a Ben Ali lawyer.

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Activists: Syria Security Forces Kill 4 Protesters in Homs, Deir Ezzor

Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters on Tuesday, killing four people, even as President Bashar al-Assad ordered a general amnesty, activists said.

"Two civilians were killed in Homs and six wounded when security forces opened fire on demonstrators calling for freedom," an activist in the central city said.

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