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Rabbi Says Order for Jews in East Ukraine to Register Just 'Provocation'

Pamphlets ordering Jews in east Ukraine's main city to register sparked a fierce storm of indignation on Thursday, with strident condemnation from Western officials and dire fears of a Nazi-style pogrom -- but were skeptically dismissed by the local chief rabbi as nothing more than "provocation".

"What happened of course smells of a provocation. As to who is behind it -- that is an open question," rabbi Pinkhas Vyshedski said in comments published on the website of the Donetsk Jewish community.

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Mozambique Rebels Inch toward Deal on Joining Army

Mozambican rebel group Renamo said Thursday it had reached an understanding with the government to integrate its fighters into the national army and police under the supervision of international observers.

Renamo spokesman Adriano Muchunga said international military experts would help identify eligible guerrillas to join the security forces in a bid to end fighting that has flared up again two decades after the end of the country's 16-year civil war.

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French Forces Free Five Kidnapped Malian Aid Workers

French forces have freed five Malian aid workers who were taken hostage in a February kidnapping claimed by one of the country's top jihadist groups, the presidents of France and Mali said Thursday.

"An operation by the French armed forces" freed the five workers -- four Red Cross employees and a veterinarian from another aid organization -- after "a terrorist group" kidnapped them on February 8 in Mali's restive north, the presidents said in a joint statement.

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Pope Washes Feet of Disabled, Including Elderly Muslim

Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen elderly and disabled people including a Libyan Muslim during an Easter ritual in Rome on Thursday imitating Jesus Christ's humility.

The 77-year-old bent down with difficulty to wash and kiss the feet of the nine Italians and three foreigners aged between 16 and 86 years old at the Don Carlo Gnocchi foundation's Santa Maria della Provvidenza center.

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Obama Offers Deepest Sympathy to South Korea

U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday offered "deepest sympathies" to the families of the victims of a ferry sinking in South Korea, from which nearly 300 people, mostly children, are missing.

"The bonds of friendship between the American and Korean people are strong and enduring," Obama said in a statement also offering the condolences of his wife Michelle.

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Canada Sends Fighter Jets to Eastern Europe

Canada is deploying six CF-18 fighter jets to Eastern Europe as part of NATO's response to the worsening crisis in Ukraine, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine was on the brink of civil war, stoking fears of outright Russian intervention.

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Turkish Parliament Approves Law Expanding Secret Services

Turkey's parliament approved a controversial law on Thursday expanding the powers of the national spy agency and setting prison terms for publishing leaked information as the government fights back against a widening corruption scandal.

The new legislation, passed after a heated debate in parliament, is the latest ammunition being deployed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he seeks to push back against the greatest challenge yet to his 11-year rule.

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Ukraine Agrees to Let ICC Probe Protest Crimes

Ukraine has accepted the International Criminal Court's jurisdiction to probe crimes committed before and during the fall of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, the Hague-based ICC said on Thursday.

"Today the registrar received a declaration lodged by Ukraine accepting the ICC's jurisdiction with respect to alleged crimes committed in its territory from November 21, 2013 to February 22, 2014,"

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Ukraine's Leaders Struggle to Deal with Mammoth Challenges

Faced with a pro-Russian uprising in the east, economic collapse and the demands of the protest movement that bought them to power, Ukraine's beleaguered leaders are struggling to stay afloat.

Prior to his appointment as prime minister, following the ouster of Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych in February, current premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk lamented that whoever agreed to take over the country would be committing "political suicide."

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U.S. to Send 'Non-Lethal' Military Aid to Ukraine

The United States will send helmets, medical supplies and other non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine amid fears of another Russian incursion there, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.

Hagel said he had informed Kiev that President Barack Obama "has approved additional non-lethal military assistance for health and welfare items and other supplies."

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