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Greece Fails to Elect President in First-Round Ballot

The first round of a three-stage presidential election in Greece failed to elect a new head of state, an Agence France-Presse vote count showed.

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Report: Spike in Syria Passport Applications

Syria's passport office has recorded a sharp rise in applications since civil war broke out nearly four years ago, a pro-regime newspaper reported Wednesday.

"A thousand passport applications are being made a day in Damascus and its province, including 200 by people aged under 18," said a passport authority official quoted by Al-Watan daily.

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Cuba Frees U.S. Prisoner Alan Gross

Cuba has freed Alan Gross, an American contractor jailed on the communist-ruled island since 2009, a U.S. official said Wednesday, amid signs of an imminent thaw in ties between the Cold War foes.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuba's President Raul Castro were both to speak at 1700 GMT on relations between the two countries, their respective governments said.

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Zambia's Acting President Refuses to Quit, Slams 'Treason'

Zambia's acting president Guy Scott on Wednesday rejected a call for his resignation by a majority of cabinet ministers, and suggested a meeting they held without him had been treasonous.

Scott said he was the only one mandated to call a cabinet meeting and "any other meeting purporting to be a cabinet meeting constitutes a serious act of treason".

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Luxembourg Parliament Backs Recognition of Palestinian State

Luxembourg's parliament voted Wednesday to urge the government to recognize a Palestinian state -- the latest in a series of similar moves around Europe aimed at pressuring Israel to move forward the peace process.

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Erdogan Says EU Cannot Give 'Democracy Lesson' to Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wednesday launched a new attack on the European Union over its condemnation of raids on opposition media, saying that Brussels had no right to give Ankara a "democracy lesson".

"They say they will give a democracy lesson to Turkey. Take the trouble to come here, so that Turkey can give you a lesson in democracy," a combative Erdogan said in a speech in the Anatolian city of Konya.

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Soldier Injured as Army Seizes Drugs in Hermel

A soldier and a fugitive were injured Wednesday as an army patrol foiled a drug deal in the northern Bekaa region of Hermel.

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Turkey still Holding 18 after Controversial Arrests

Turkish police Wednesday were still questioning 18 suspects arrested in hugely controversial weekend raids against opposition media that have raised tensions between Ankara and the European Union.

The detainees include Ekrem Dumanli, editor-in-chief of Turkey's top-selling Zaman newspaper which is closely linked to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of running a "parallel state" to oust his government.

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Ssshh: Be Careful What You Say in Egypt Today

Six months after Abdel Fattah al-Sisi became Egypt's president after crushing his opponents, criticism of his regime is either whispered or left unspoken amid stifling curbs on freedom of expression.

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European Parliament Backs Recognition of Palestinian State 'in Principle'

The European Parliament overwhelmingly backed the recognition of a Palestinian state "in principle" on Wednesday, following a series of votes on the issue in EU nations that have enraged Israel.

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