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Islam Cartoons: French Minister Says Free Speech Basic Right

France's interior minister said Wednesday after a French magazine published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that freedom of speech, including caricature, was a "fundamental right" backed by the law.

Manuel Valls made the statement after meeting with French Muslim leaders angered by the cartoons, some of which depict the Prophet in the nude.

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Russia Expels USAID for 'Influencing Politics'

Russia said on Wednesday it has ordered USAID to halt its operations by October 1 because the agency was seeking to influence domestic politics.

"The decision was taken mainly because the work of the agency's officials far from always responded to the stated goals of development and humanitarian cooperation," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

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France Braces for Mohammed Cartoons Backlash

France stepped up security and appealed for calm Wednesday after a weekly magazine published cartoons of a naked Prophet Mohammed that risked fanning outrage in the Islamic world.

Security was reinforced at French missions and other institutions in countries feared most at risk of a hostile reaction.

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Khamenei: Iran Defiant, Even Against Big Powers' Anger

Iran will never bend to pressure exerted by the world's big powers, even if they become "angry" at its defiance, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech published on his official website on Wednesday.

The Islamic republic "does not accept the demands of any superpower," he told an audience of military personnel and their families in the speech delivered on Tuesday in northern Iran, according to his website,

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French PM: Courts Can Hear Case Against Anti-Muslim Cartoons

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Wednesday anyone offended by cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo could take the matter to the courts.

But he emphasized France's tradition of free speech. "We are in a country where freedom of expression is guaranteed, including the freedom to caricature," he said on RTL radio.

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At Least 26 Killed in Mexico Gas Plant Fire Near U.S. Border

A huge blaze erupted at a Mexican gas plant near the U.S. border Tuesday, leaving 26 people dead, 28 injured and seven missing in the worst accident in two years for the state-run Pemex energy firm.

Television images showed tall flames and plumes of smoke billowing from the site, located near Reynosa, a city in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas that sits across from the Texas town of McAllen.

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Suu Kyi Meets Clinton in U.S. after Years under Arrest

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi made a triumphant debut Tuesday in Washington as she met Hillary Clinton, who voiced excitement at the opposition leader's journey from house arrest to stateswoman.

A relaxed and smiling Suu Kyi, dressed in a red jacket with three small pink flowers pinned to her hair, chatted with America's top diplomat at her office in the State Department at the start of an unprecedented 18-day U.S. tour.

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Top Official Killed in Nigeria State Hit by Islamist Attacks

Gunmen have killed the justice commissioner for a Nigerian state at the heart of an Islamist insurgency and an ex-prisons chief in another area, government and police sources said Tuesday.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the killings, but they occurred after security forces on Monday shot dead two suspected high-ranking members of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.

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7 Turkish Troops Killed in Kurdish Rebel Attack

Seven Turkish troops were killed and almost 60 others were wounded Tuesday in a rocket assault on their military convoy in Turkey's southeast, according to local security sources.

The military convoy was hit by Kurdish rebel rockets on the highway on the outskirts of southeastern Bingol province, sparking a fire that wounded 58 soldiers aboard an army bus.

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IAEA, Iran Eyeing New Talks Mid-October

Iran and the U.N. nuclear agency are looking to hold a new meeting in mid-October, despite Tehran's atomic chief suggesting the watchdog has been infiltrated by "terrorists," diplomats told Agence France Presse on Tuesday.

Four envoys said that plans were being made for the meeting, which would follow one between Iran's nuclear agency chief Fereydoon Abbasi Davani and International Atomic Energy Agency director general Yukiya Amano in Vienna on Monday.

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