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Iran FM Confident as Nuclear Deal Deadline Looms

Tortuous negotiations aimed at ending fears that Iran will acquire nuclear arms shifted into top gear Saturday, with the Iranian foreign minister saying he was confident the outstanding hurdles blocking a deal could be overcome.

"We're moving forward," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters after meeting separately with his German and French counterparts, who he said were both "serious" about reaching an agreement.

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Turkey PM Denies Rift with Erdogan and Calls for Presidential System

Turkey should adopt a presidential system, the country's Prime Minister has declared, refuting claims that he and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were at loggerheads over the idea. 

The statement comes after a major rift between Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the run up to the June 7 parliamentary election where the AKP will seek to change the constitution to give Erdogan's office more executive powers. 

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German Foreign Minister Says Iran Talks in 'Endgame'

Tortuous negotiations aimed at laying to rest fears Iran will get nuclear weapons moved into top gear Saturday as both sides demanded the other give ground as a deadline loomed.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Saturday joined nuclear talks with Iran, saying the negotiations were in the "endgame".

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Ukraine Accuses Rebels of Firing Grad Rockets

Ukraine government forces on Saturday accused pro-Russian separatists of using Grad multiple rocket launchers overnight in the country's war-torn east in violation of a truce deal signed last month.

Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko told reporters that separatists fired the heavy weapons towards the village of Novotoshkivka from their Lugansk stronghold.

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Hong Kong Rally Marks Half-Year Anniversary of Democracy Protests

Hundreds gathered next to the Hong Kong government headquarters on Saturday to mark the half-year anniversary of mass democracy protests and vowed to press their fight for fully free elections for the city's next leader.

People handed out yellow ribbons, a symbol of the protests, and gave speeches in a carnival atmosphere in stark comparison to the scene on September 28 when police fired teargas at protesters in the same location.

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Germany to Hold National Memorial for Crash Victims on April 17

Germany will hold a national memorial ceremony and service for victims of a Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps, killing all 150 aboard, on April 17, regional authorities said Saturday.

The ceremony will be held at Cologne Cathedral in western Germany, a region from where many of the victims originated, and is due to be attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck, a spokeswoman for the regional North Rhine-Westphalia government told Agence France Presse.

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Vandals Destroy Memorial to Murdered Russian Opposition Leader Nemtsov

Vandals Saturday destroyed an improvised memorial created by supporters of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on the bridge where he was shot a month ago, the Echo of Moscow radio station reported Saturday.

Supporters had regularly refreshed flowers and candles on the bridge next to the Kremlin where the 55-year-old former deputy prime minister and prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin was gunned down on February 27.

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Two Czech Women Kidnapped in Pakistan in 2013 Freed

Two young Czech women kidnapped in Pakistan in 2013 have been freed and have returned home, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Saturday.

"I can confirm that Hana Humpalova and Antonie Chrastecka have already returned to the Czech Republic," Sobotka told the CT24 news channel.

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New Zealand Ruling Party Trounced in by-Election

New Zealand's ruling National Party suffered a setback Saturday when it was comprehensively beaten in a by-election in one of its safest seats.

Winston Peters, the leader of the minor opposition party New Zealand First won the Northland by-election with a majority of 4,012.

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Philippines Hits Back at Beijing over South China Sea

The Philippines on Saturday shot back at Beijing's criticism of its activities in the South China Sea, saying they were "in no way comparable to China's massive reclamation activities" in the waters.

It also said accusations that Manila was being "hypocritical" would not distract people from Beijing's own actions which were raising regional tensions.

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