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Bahrain Expels Envoy of Shiite Ayatollah Sistani

Authorities in Sunni-ruled Bahrain on Wednesday expelled the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in the latest manifestation of tension with the kingdom's Shiite majority.

Sheikh Hussein al-Najati was among 31 Bahrainis who had their citizenship revoked in November 2012 over accusations that they had undermined state security, more than a year after authorities crushed a Shiite uprising in March 2011.

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Catalonia Chief Vows to Call Independence Poll

Catalonia's political chief Artur Mas vowed on Wednesday to push ahead with a vote on independence from Spain on November 9, flying in the face of fierce opposition from Madrid.

Just two weeks after Spain's parliament overwhelmingly shot down the referendum bid, Mas said he was determined to hold a vote.

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Hamas, Fatah Declare End of Palestinian Rift as Israeli Strike in Gaza Wounds 6

Rival Palestinian leaders from the West Bank and Gaza Strip forged a new reconciliation agreement on Wednesday, angering Israel at a time when peace talks are at a standstill.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for choosing "Hamas, not peace", and a Netanyahu aide said he had called off a peace meeting with the Palestinians scheduled for Wednesday evening.

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Pakistan Envoy 'Encouraged' by Modi's Remarks on India Relations

Pakistan said Wednesday it was "encouraged" by comments from arch rival India's election frontrunner Narendra Modi who stressed cooperation with foreign governments if he was elected prime minister.

Hindu nationalist hardliner Modi and his opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party are expected to vault to power at mammoth elections underway in India after a decade of center-left Congress party rule.

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Reluctant Kosovo Approves War Crimes Court

Kosovo's parliament approved on Wednesday the establishment of an international court to deal with alleged crimes committed by ethnic Albanian guerrillas during the 1998-1999 war with Serbia.

The vote came amid a mounting pressure on Pristina to back an EU call to create a special court to address the allegations detailed in a 2011 Council of Europe report on crimes committed by pro-independence ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

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U.S. Envoy in Libya amid Political Turmoil

A top U.S. diplomat was visiting Libya on Wednesday to meet government officials, amid political upheaval in the North African country, the State Department said.

Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns was in Tripoli to meet with senior Libyan officials including interim prime minister Abdullah al-Thani and leaders of Libya's parliament, the General National Congress, the State Department said in a statement.

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Russia Vows Response if 'Interests' in Ukraine Attacked, Kiev Says 'Liberated' Svyatogorsk

Russia issued a sharp warning on Wednesday that it will strike back if its "legitimate interests" in Ukraine are attacked, raising the stakes in the Cold War-like duel with the United States over the former Soviet republic's future.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's interior ministry said the military has "liberated" the eastern town of Svyatogorsk from pro-Kremlin separatists.

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Qatar Says Dispute with Gulf Neighbors 'over'

Qatar's dispute with three fellow Gulf states, which withdrew their envoys from Doha last month, is "over", the Qatari foreign minister said Wednesday, while insisting his country had made no concessions.

"The statement issued in Riyadh on April 17 was clear ... For the brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) the dispute is over," Khaled Al-Attiyah told a press conference in Kuwait after a meeting with his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah.

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U.N. Aid Chiefs Appeal for Syria Access

The heads of five U.N. agencies on Wednesday made an impassioned call to both sides in Syria's conflict to allow aid deliveries countrywide, end siege warfare and halt indiscriminate attacks on civilians.

"The war escalates in many areas. The humanitarian situation deteriorates day after day," the leaders of the U.N. humanitarian aid office and its children's, refugee, food and health divisions said in a joint statement.

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Major International Effort Seen as Crucial to End South Sudan Carnage

As ethnic massacres in South Sudan spiral out of control and politicians lose their grip on rampaging militias, only a concerted international effort stands any chance of ending the four-month-old civil war, analysts say.

The past week has been described by a senior U.N. official as the "most bleak" in South Sudan's short history, with pro-government gunmen storming a U.N. base in an attempt to kill thousands of terrified civilians and rebels accused of conducting massacres in churches, mosques and hospitals.

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