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NGO Denounces 'Alarming' Conditions in Syria Jail

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Thursday denounced the "alarming" health conditions at a prison outside second city Aleppo where more than 100 detainees have died in the past two months.

The prison, one of the biggest in war-torn Syria, has been under siege since April, with regime troops repelling repeated attempts by opposition fighters to free the facility's 4,000 inmates.

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Philippine President: Golan Troops Need Defense against Chemical Arms

President Benigno Aquino threatened Thursday to withdraw Philippine troops from the U.N. peacekeeping force on the Golan Heights unless they receive anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, and are protected against chemical arms.

Aquino said the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), now made up of just over 500 Filipino and Indian troops, needed revised rules of engagement as Syria's civil war heats up.

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5 Jailed over Deadly Shopping Mall Fire in Qatar

A Qatari court on Thursday sentenced five people, among them the emirate's envoy to Belgium, to six years in prison over "negligence" that caused a deadly shopping mall blaze last year, al-Jazeera reported.

All the 19 people killed in the inferno at Doha's Villagio mall on May 28, 2012, were foreigners, including 13 children, four teachers and two firefighters.

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More EU Pressure on Iran, Netanyahu Tells Ashton

Europe must take a firmer line with Iran over its controversial nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday at the start of a working meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

"We need to exert pressure on them. We're not talking about political spin but about the spinning of centrifuges," he said in remarks communicated by his office.

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Russia: West 'Not Sure' it Can Bring Syria Rebels to Peace Meet

Russia said on Thursday the West did not want to commit to a concrete timeframe for a proposed peace conference on Syria because it was not sure the opposition would agree to attend.

In May, Russia and the United States proposed putting together a peace conference in a bid to try to find an end to the civil war in Syria but the date for the talks has repeatedly been pushed back.

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Two Killed as Iraqis Vote in Delayed Provincial Polls

Iraqis in two Sunni-majority provinces voted under heavy security in delayed provincial polls on Thursday which were marred by mortar attacks on polling stations that left two policemen dead.

The elections, postponed for two months in Anbar and Nineveh provinces due to security concerns, came amid a long-running political deadlock and are seen as a key gauge of politicians' popularity ahead of a general election next year.

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Mortar Shell from Syria Strikes Israeli-occupied Golan

A mortar round from Syria exploded in the Israeli-occupied sector of the Golan Heights plateau on Thursday, the military said.

"There was no damage or injuries and the soldiers conducted a sweep in the area of the blast," a military spokeswoman said.

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Amnesty Deplores Libya Conditions for Would-be Migrants

Amnesty International on Thursday called on Libya to take immediate action to bring an end to the "deplorable conditions" endured by thousands of would-be migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, including many children.

The human rights watchdog also appealed to the European Union, which it said was assisting Libya to curb EU-bound "illegal" migrants, to ensure its drive to halt them does not worsen the situation.

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Report: Top U.S. General, Kerry Clash over Syria

Top U.S. military officer General Martin Dempsey has clashed with Secretary of State John Kerry over the merits of bombing Syria's regime at a White House meeting, media reported Wednesday.

Kerry reportedly argued for air strikes against regime air bases used to employ chemical weapons against Syrian rebels at a discussion last week in the White House Situation Room, wrote Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, citing unnamed sources.

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Abbas Says Palestinians Support U.S. Peace Moves

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday reiterated his support for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts to revive peace talks with Israel.

During a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Ramallah, Abbas talked of the Palestinians' "commitment to the success of Kerry's efforts to save the peace process in order to restart serious talks leading to the end of the occupation and the establishment of a an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.”

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