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Kadim al-Sahir Returns to Iraq in UNICEF Role

Crooning of love, Iraq's most famous singer returned to Baghdad on Monday after 14 years abroad to be named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations children's fund, UNICEF.

Kadim al-Sahir said as a Goodwill Ambassador, he would inspect villages and schools.

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NYTimes: Bouthaina Shaaban Claims Syria Uprising Under Control

Syria's embattled government has ridden out the worst of a roiling seven-week uprising, a senior official told The New York Times in an interview on Monday.

"I hope we are witnessing the end of the story," Bouthaina Shaaban, an adviser to President Bashar Assad who often serves as a spokeswoman, told the U.S. paper in an hour long interview.

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U.N. Team Blocked from Syria's Daraa as Regime Arrests 'Thousands' in Banias

Syrian authorities have stopped a U.N. humanitarian team from visiting the protest city of Daraa where hundreds are said to have been killed in a government crackdown, a U.N. spokesman said Monday.

"The U.N. humanitarian assessment mission has not been able to get into Daraa," U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters.

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Summit of World's Poorest Nations Opens in Istanbul

A five-day U.N. summit with 48 leaders of the world's Least Developed Countries (LDCs) began in Istanbul Monday to discuss a new 10-year aid plan to help lift nations out of poverty.

"Investing in the LDCs can provide the stimulus that will help to propel and sustain global economic recovery and stability," said Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, in his opening remarks.

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Ban: Disarmament of Armed Groups Can Best Be Achieved through Political Process

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon remains convinced that the disarmament of armed groups in Lebanon, in particular Hizbullah, can best be achieved through a political process, a U.N. spokesman said.

"He calls on Lebanese leaders to reconvene the national dialogue under the auspices of President Michel Suleiman," the spokesman Farhan Haq said.

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Williams Meets Berri: Exploiting Resources in Territorial Waters Very Important Reason to Form Government

U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams stressed on Friday the need for the formation of a functioning government “the sooner the better.”

He said after holding talks with Speaker Nabih Berri: “There are many concerns of importance to ordinary Lebanese people that need to be addressed, irrespective of their confession or their politics.”

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Netanyahu: Sarkozy Says Palestinians Must OK Israel as Jewish

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy that France wants the new Palestinian government to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

"What I heard from President Sarkozy is that they must recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people," Netanyahu said outside the Elysee Palace in Paris, after a meeting he described as "good, far-ranging and friendly".

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Palestinian Leaders Hail End to Four-Year Rift

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal buried the hatchet at a Cairo reconciliation ceremony on Wednesday that ends a nearly four-year feud but has angered Israel.

Palestinians gathered in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip to celebrate the long-awaited agreement to put an end to the rivalry between the administrations in the West Bank and Gaza, and restore the unity shattered by deadly infighting in June 2007.

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Williams Expresses Concern to Miqati that Cabinet Formation Taking Time

U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams on Wednesday expressed support for Premier-designate Najib Miqati lamenting that the cabinet formation process was taking a long time.

“I take this opportunity to express my strong support for Najib Miqati as Prime Minister-designate and his endeavors to form a new government,” Williams said after holding talks with Miqati.

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U.N. Rights Expert Hails 'Power' of Internet

A U.N. human rights expert has marked World Press Freedom Day by hailing the epoch-making power of the Internet and the role online social networking has played in uprisings in the Middle East.

"As one activist tweeted during the protests in Egypt, 'we use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world'," said Frank La Rue, U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression.

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