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NATO Rejects Russia's Missile Defense Proposal

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday bluntly rejected a Russian proposal to end a dispute on missile defense that threatens a rapprochement between Moscow and the Western alliance.

Russia has indicated it would be ready to drop its opposition to NATO installing missile defense facilities in ex-Communist Eastern Europe if it provided legal guarantees the system would not be directed against Russia.

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Russian Arms Depot Blasts Force Mass Evacuation

Russian firefighters on Friday battled a blaze raging through an arms depot where tones of artillery shells and rockets were stored, as some 28,000 people living nearby were evacuated from their homes.

As a result of the night-time blaze at the arms depot near the city of Izhevsk in the Volga region of Udmurtia, 30 people were injured and nine hospitalized including a child, an emergency ministry spokesman told Agence France Presse.

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Russia Warns Syria Opposition, West over Regime Change

Russia Thursday warned Syria's opposition to President Bashar al-Assad against destabilizing the country and told the West not to provoke the situation for the sake of "regime change".

Syrian opposition groups were meeting in Turkey to discuss plans to support the revolt against Assad's regime, dismissing his calls for dialogue as a belated move.

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Russia Says G8 Partners Urged It to Mediate Libya Conflict

Russia's G8 partners have asked Moscow to mediate an end to the conflict pitting Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces against pro-democracy rebels, Russian officials said Thursday.

"Requests have been voiced that Russia take upon itself the role of a mediator in settling the situation in Libya," President Dmitry Medvedev's spokeswoman Natalia Timakova told reporters at the G8 summit in Deauville.

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Fatah: Palestinians Refuse to Declare Unilateral Independence

Palestinian authorities do not intend to declare unilateral independence, a top Fatah member said Tuesday following talks with senior Russian officials.

"We do not intend to unilaterally declare independence," Fatah member Azzam al-Ahmed said one day after meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

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Medvedev Won't Back Use of Force against Syria, Assad Confident Unrest Over

Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad has said he believes the unrest roiling his country is coming to an end while acknowledging that security services had made mistakes in trying to tame a two-month revolt.

The international community, meanwhile, appeared divided Wednesday on how to tackle the Syrian crisis. Switzerland joined an EU-led sanctions regime, while Russia warned it would oppose any proposed U.N. resolution to intervene with force in Syria.

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Swiss Announce Sanctions on Syria

Switzerland announced new sanctions against Syria on Wednesday, saying that it was following the European Union's lead in imposing an embargo on arms and on equipment used for internal repression.

"The new edict on measures against Syria includes an embargo on military assets and equipment that could be used for internal repression," said the Swiss Economy Ministry in a statement.

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Medvedev Warns West of Cold War, Ambiguous Over Presidential Ambitions

President Dmitry Medvedev warned Wednesday Russia could pull out a new nuclear disarmament treaty and enter a new Cold War with the West if the two sides failed to agree on a new missile defense shield.

Medvedev told reporters that the United States' decision to push ahead with the European shield despite Russia's objections will force Moscow "to take response measures -- something that we would very much rather not do."

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Gadhafi Envoys Due in Moscow Tuesday

Russia was due Tuesday to hold previously unannounced talks with envoys of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi amid efforts by Moscow to help mediate an end to an international campaign it has opposed.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the meetings with the Tripoli government representatives will be followed by talks with rebel envoys from Benghazi at a later date.

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Nuclear Leak Forces Russian Icebreaker Back to Port

Russia launched an urgent rescue mission Thursday after one of its atom-powered icebreakers developed a nuclear leak in the frozen seas of the Arctic and was forced to abandon its mission, Agence France Presse reported.

The Rosatomflot nuclear fleet said in a statement that "insignificant increase in activity" had been reported on board its Taimyr icebreaker.

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