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Four Dead in Australia Helicopter Crash

Four people have been killed in a fiery helicopter crash south of Sydney on Thursday at a popular clifftop function center, according to media reports.

Police confirmed that a private chopper belonging to Bankstown Helicopters went down in a grassy clearing at Bulli Tops, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Sydney, although they could not confirm reports of four casualties.

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N. Korea Threatens U.S. Bases in Japan, Guam

The North Korean army on Thursday threatened a possible strike against U.S. military bases in Japan, in response to the use of nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 bombers in joint military drills with South Korea.

The threat came a day after Pyongyang condemned the B-52 flights as an "unpardonable provocation" and threatened military action if they continue.

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Venezuela Says Suspends 'Channel of Communications' with U.S.

Venezuela said Wednesday it has suspended a "channel of communications" with Washington as it ratchets up tension ahead of elections to replace the late president Hugo Chavez.

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said the move was a response to "interventionist statements" by U.S. assistant secretary of state Roberta Jacobson, who called for "open, fair and transparent" elections on April 14.

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Al-Qaida Man Accused of Terrorism in New York

An alleged veteran of al-Qaida's fight against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan who went on to plot a bomb attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Nigeria was charged Wednesday in New York.

Ibrahim Suleiman Adnan Adam Harun, also known as "Spin Ghul," was charged by a grand jury with conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to bomb American diplomatic facilities, as well as providing material support to al-Qaida.

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French Troops to Pull Out of Mali 'from End' of April

French troops will begin pulling out of troubled Mali "from the end of April", French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told parliament on Wednesday.

Ayrault said a meeting next Monday between lawmakers in France's National Assembly and Senate would assess the involvement of French troops to help flush out Islamist rebels in the west African country "even if our troops will begin coming home from the end of April".

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Turkey Says Radical Group May Be behind Twin Attacks

A Turkish minister said Wednesday that twin attacks in Ankara may have been the work of the same radical Marxist group which claimed a suicide bombing against the U.S. embassy in February.

One person was slightly wounded in simultaneous grenade and rocket attacks late Tuesday against the justice ministry and the headquarters of the ruling ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

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Khamenei Urges Iran to Stand Up to Sanctions

Iran began the Persian New Year on Wednesday with its most senior leader asking the people to stand up to piling Western economic sanctions and also warning that the pressure was unlikely to ease.

If Iranians show more "readiness" to face Western pressure, the next 12 months will be a "political and economic epoch" for the country, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a recorded message on state television.

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Observers Prepare to Monitor Border

The first observers are preparing to monitor a demilitarized buffer zone between Sudan and South Sudan, Khartoum's defense minister said on Wednesday, a move which aims to curb cross-border rebel support.

Analysts say both countries will face a major challenge to effectively implement the zone along their undemarcated and disputed frontier.

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Pope Calls for 'Respect' for All Religions

Pope Francis on Wednesday called for "friendship and respect" among all faiths at a meeting with representatives of major world religions in the Vatican.

The Roman Catholic Church would "promote friendship and respect between men and women of different religions," the pope said, a day after his formal inauguration in St Peter's Square.

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Central African Rebels to Resume Fighting

Central African rebels said Wednesday they would resume fighting after a deadline given to the government to meet their demands under a peace deal expired.

"The ultimatum is over. We will return to arms," Colonel Djouma Narkoyo, one of the rebel military chiefs, told Agence France Presse. He said the Seleka rebel coalition was working on a new strategy.

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