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Ghanem Urges Election of President for Breakthrough on Electoral Law

MP Robert Ghanem, head of the electoral subcommittee, stressed on Saturday that the elections law will not be adopted before the election a new president, who should have certain characteristics.

Ghanem expressed hope in an interview with An Nahar newspaper that the rival parties reach a settlement over the presidential deadlock, considering that the subcommittee's meetings are to facilitate any parliamentary session set to vote on an electoral law immediately after the election of a new head of state.

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Philippines Orders Crackdown on Privileged Jailbirds

Philippine authorities have given privileged inmates in the country's main prison until Christmas Eve to turn over their hidden guns, drugs and other contraband or the notorious facility will face a major shakedown.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima issued the ultimatum after two surprise searches of the Bilibid prison this week uncovered a horde of prohibited items including firearms, drugs, stashes of U.S. dollars -- and even a jacuzzi and a stripper bar.

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U.S. Drone Strike Kills Five in Northwest Pakistan

A U.S. drone strike killed at least five militants in Pakistan's restive tribal region near the Afghan border on Saturday, security officials said, warning that the death toll was expected to rise.

The strike occurred in North Waziristan, one of the seven semi-autonomous tribal districts bordering Afghanistan, which is seen as a hub for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

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Masri Warns Collapse of Negotiations with Islamists Threatens Lives of Hostages

Salafist cleric Wissam al-Masri warned on Saturday that the failure to strike a deal with the Islamist militants, who are holding several Lebanese soldiers and policemen captive, threatens the lives of the servicemen, revealing that he will head to the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal soon.

“We are exerting all efforts to resolve the case,” Masri said in an interview with As Safir newspaper, expressing belief that the servicemen “will not be well if the negotiations collapsed.”

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Report: Apprehension of Terrorists to Impact Case of Captive Servicemen

The arrest of prominent leaders of the Free Syrian Army and the al-Qaida-affiliate Nusra Front weakened the two groups, which prompted several fighters to defect them and pledge allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), media reports on Saturday.

According to a report published in As Safir newspaper, ISIL would eventually be compelled to engage in a large-scale battle with the Lebanese Army and Hizbullah.

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Seven Dead as Pakistan Hits Militant Hideouts

Seven people including a policeman and paramilitary soldier were killed in two separate incidents when Pakistani security forces hit militant hideouts in the restive northwest Saturday morning, officials said. 

In the first incident, police and paramilitary soldiers raided suspected hideouts in Shabqadar, a town around 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Peshawar.

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Berri Pessimistic on Adoption of New Electoral Law

Speaker Nabih Berri expressed pessimism on Saturday regarding the new electoral law, considering that the rival parties will not reach consensus over the matter.

“I expect that the 1960 electoral law to remain for a long time,” Berri's visitors quoted him as saying in comments published in al-Joumhouria newspaper.

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Bomb Explodes in Shiite Village in Bahrain

A bomb blast in a Shiite village in Bahrain, the scene of simmering unrest since anti-government protests were crushed in 2011, has left three policemen slightly wounded, officials said.

The three were on patrol in the village of Bani Jamra when the blast occurred, the Gulf kingdom's interior ministry said in a statement on Twitter posted late Friday.

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China Arrests U.S. Aid Worker on N. Korean Border

China has arrested an American Christian aid worker based near its border with North Korea, his lawyer said Saturday, as authorities deepen an apparent crackdown on religious groups in the region.

Peter Hahn, a North Korean-born naturalized U.S. citizen, was formally arrested on Friday on charges of embezzlement and counterfeiting receipts, his attorney Zhang Peihong said.

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Mother Arrested for Murder of Eight Children in Australia

Australian police said Saturday they had arrested the mother of most of eight children reportedly stabbed to death in the northern city of Cairns, as vigils were held to mourn the tragedy.

Officers have not revealed the cause of death of the children, aged between 18 months and 14 years, but said knives were found at the house where the bodies were discovered on Friday morning.

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