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Moscow Hosts Syria Talks, Little Hope of Breakthrough

Syrian opposition figures met in Moscow on Monday as part of a new Russia-coordinated bid to wind down the war in Syria, although there was little hope of a breakthrough.

The main opposition group, the exiled National Coalition, has boycotted the talks while Syrian President Bashar Assad cast doubt on the Moscow initiative bearing any fruit.

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Kurds Defeat Islamic State Jihadists in Syria's Kobane

Kurdish militia drove the Islamic State group from the Syrian town of Kobane and raised their flags on Monday, dealing the jihadists a heavy blow after months of heavy fighting.

Across the border in Iraq, meanwhile, a top army officer announced troops had "liberated" Diyala province from IS jihadists.

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Army Arrests Suspected Terrorist in Beirut's Southern Suburbs

The army command said on Monday that the military has arrested a Syrian in Beirut's southern suburbs on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization.

Mohammed Ibrahim Youssef was apprehended in Haret Hreik at dawn Monday, said the army in a communique.

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Assad Dismisses U.S. Plans to Train Rebels

Syrian President Bashar Assad said U.S. plans to train vetted rebels to fight the Islamic State group were "illusory" as they would eventually defect to the jihadists, in an interview published Monday.

The Syrian leader also questioned talks to be held in Moscow this week, telling Foreign Affairs magazine that his government would attend but was not convinced the opposition figures taking part represented Syrians on the ground.

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Syrian Opposition Begins Talks in Moscow

Syrian opposition figures on Monday began four days of talks on how to end the near four-year conflict, with members of President Bashar Assad's regime set to join them but the main exiled opposition alliance boycotting the event.

The closed-door talks opened as planned at 11 am Moscow time (0800 GMT), a Russian diplomatic source told RIA Novosti. The talks are set to run until Thursday.

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Geagea Says Hizbullah, IS Two Sides of Same Coin

Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea has said that Hizbullah and the extremist Islamic State group are enemies but have closely related features of one idea.

“Hizbullah is the IS's enemy and they are fighting each other,” Geagea told UAE's Alroeya newspaper in an interview published on Monday.

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On Iraq Visit, Jolie Says World Failing to Avert Disaster

The international community is failing in its duty to protect civilians affected by the conflict in Iraq and Syria, US actress Angelina Jolie said Sunday in northern Iraq.

In her capacity as special envoy for the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR), the Hollywood star visited Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqis near Dohuk, in the autonomous region of Kurdistan.

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7 Dead, Dozens Hurt as Rebel Rockets Rain Down on Syrian Capital

Five civilians and two soldiers were killed and dozens of people wounded when rebels fired a barrage of rockets and mortar rounds Sunday at central Damascus, a monitoring group said.

The rebel attack came two days after they threatened to retaliate for deadly air raids by the Syrian regime against an opposition-held area on the edge of the capital.

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Philippine Forces, Rebels Report Casualties in Rare Clash

Philippine security forces and a Muslim rebel group said Sunday they had clashed in the country's south with an unspecified number of casualties, in violence rarely seen since the signing of a peace treaty.

Police commandos and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members fought near the remote town of Mamasapano on the main southern island of Mindanao before dawn, regional military spokesman Captain Joan Petinglay said.

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Syria U.N. Envoy to Head Government Team in Moscow Talks

The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, will head the government team in peace talks due to open in Moscow on Monday, a pro-government newspaper reported.

But the delegation will not join the talks until Wednesday, after two days of preliminary discussions among opposition participants, the Al-Watan newspaper reported.

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