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Mehlis Accuses Assad of Assassinating Hariri over Alleged Coup Plot

Former chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis has accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of ordering the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri for allegedly seeking to topple his regime.

Mehlis said in an interview with the German radio Deutsche Welle on Thursday that Assad ordered Hariri’s Feb. 2005 killing after Damascus “suspected that he was seeking to topple the Syrian regime and disarm Hizbullah in cooperation with France and U.S.”

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Palestinians Want U.N. Recognition 'Even If Talks Start'

The Palestinians will seek U.N. recognition and membership regardless of whether there is a resumption of peace talks, negotiator Mohammed Shtayeh said on Thursday.

His comments were made as the international community pushes a raft of new peace initiatives in a bid to head off the Palestinian push for U.N. membership.

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Russia Backs Ban Ki-moon for 2nd U.N. Term

Russia on Thursday became the last permanent member of the Security Council to support U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's re-election, saying it would back his candidacy in a vote due later in the day.

"We are ready to support the candidacy of the esteemed Ban Ki-moon for a second term as U.N. Secretary General at Thursday's upcoming vote," Interfax quoted foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich as saying.

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Gadhafi Son Calls for ‘Internationally Supervised’ Elections

Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi is ready to accept internationally supervised elections within three months, his son Seif al-Islam told an Italian newspaper on Thursday.

"Elections, immediately and with international supervision. It's the only painless way to break out of the impasse in Libya," Saif al-Islam told the daily Corriere della Sera correspondent in Tripoli.

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Miqati at Grand Serail after 6 Years: Lebanon Committed to International Resolutions

Prime Minister Najib Miqati, who on Thursday entered the Grand Serail for the first time in six years, reiterated that his cabinet will not confront the international community.

“Lebanon is not in a confrontation with the Western community nor the international community,” Miqati told pan-Arab radio station Sawa.

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Jordan's King Expresses Pessimism over Mideast Peace

Jordan's King Abdullah II expressed pessimism about the prospects of Middle East peace in an interview published Thursday, speaking openly about a "one-state solution" to the conflict.

"2011 will be, I think, a very bad year for peace," Abdullah told The Washington Post in an interview at his palace in the Jordanian capital.

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Ash Cloud Forces U.N. Chief to Spend Birthday on Bus

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was forced to rough it on an overnight bus to meet Argentine leaders on Monday because of Chile's volcanic ash cloud. Worse still -- it was his birthday.

Ban became the highest-profile person to fall victim as the eruption of Chile's Puyehue volcano, high in the Andes, entered a second week, spewing ash that has disrupted air travel from South America to Australia.

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Israel Wants 30 'No' Votes against Recognizing Palestinian State

Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu is hoping to convince at least 30 countries to vote against recognizing a Palestinian state should the United Nations debate the issue in September, media reports said.

"Before we reach September, we have to push through an initiative to secure 30 countries and more who will say 'no' to the unilateral recognition in the U.N. General Assembly," the Israeli premier was quoted as saying by news website Ynet.

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U.N. Says Curb Soot and Smog to Keep Earth Cool

Sharply reducing emissions of soot and smog could play a critical role in preventing Earth from overheating, according to a U.N. report released on Tuesday.

Curbing these pollutants could also boost global food output and save millions of lives lost to heart and lung disease, said the report from the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

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U.N. Expects Cabinet to be Fully Committed to 1701, Other International Obligations

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the formation of the new Lebanese cabinet expressing hope that it will be able to address the economic, political and security challenges facing the country.

“The Secretary-General believes that the formation today of a new cabinet in Lebanon, following months of consultations … is an important step toward establishing a functional, executive government in Lebanon,” said a statement issued by his spokesperson on Monday.

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