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U.S. Adds 10 Firms in Malta to Iran Sanctions

The United States government hit 10 firms linked to Iran's shipping industry with sanctions on Tuesday, accusing them of helping the Islamic Republic's missile and other military programs.

The Treasury Department said 10 Malta-based shipping and front companies and one individual were linked to the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, Irano Hind -- a joint venture with the Indian government -- and ISI Maritime.

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Cameron Visits British Troops in Afghanistan

Prime Minister David Cameron paid a pre-Christmas visit to British troops in Afghanistan on Tuesday, although his plans were upset by a dust storm, officials and media said.

Cameron had intended to visit Camp Bastion in the restive southern province of Helmand, where the majority of Britain's 9,500 troops are based, but his Royal Air Force flight was forced to divert to Kandahar airfield.

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South Sudan Rebel Chief Killed in Clash with Army

South Sudanese rebel chief George Athor has been killed in a clash with soldiers of the newly independent nation, Vice President Riek Machar said on Tuesday.

One month after vowing to continue his battle against the Juba government, Athor died when a South Sudanese border patrol clashed with "elements" with him in Morobo County at about 1500 GMT on Monday, Machar said.

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Spain Parliament Votes in Mariano Rajoy as PM

Spanish lawmakers voted Tuesday to make conservative leader Mariano Rajoy the new prime minister, approving his program of sweeping budget cuts and tough economic reforms.

Facing urgent pressure to fix Spain's economy, with five million people unemployed and warnings of a fresh recession looming, Rajoy, 56, has vowed to create jobs, clean up banks and reassure investors over the country's finances.

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Iran Invites U.N. Nuclear Inspectors

Iran has invited the U.N. atomic watchdog for a visit, but it is unclear whether inspectors would have access to sites where covert nuclear weapons activity is suspected, Western diplomats said Tuesday.

"Our understanding from our conversations with the IAEA is that... Iran has made a sort of general invitation, but there is nothing specific in there," one diplomat to the Vienna-based agency told Agence France Presse on condition of anonymity.

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Russia's Opposition Slams 'Smears' ahead of Protest

Russian opposition activists complained Tuesday of a smear campaign after a pro-Kremlin website published recordings of their phone calls ahead of a mass protest rally planned in Moscow this week.

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Algerian Troops in Mali to Combat Qaida-Linked Groups

Algerian troops have crossed into Mali to help government forces combat groups affiliated to al-Qaida, officials and witnesses told Agence France Presse Tuesday.

"Algerian troops are currently stationed in northern Mali to assist the Malian army in the fight against terrorism," a high-ranking military official said.

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Police in China Fire Teargas, Beat Protesters

Police fired teargas and beat demonstrators who stormed government buildings in southern China on Tuesday to protest a power plant, witnesses said, in the latest violent unrest to hit the country.

Residents of Haimen, a town in the province of Guangdong, are demanding the coal-fired plant be moved, saying it is damaging their health, demonstrators told Agence France Presse by telephone.

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Turkey Weighs Sanctions against France over Genocide Bill

The Turkish government will impose a raft of diplomatic and trade sanctions against Paris if French lawmakers adopt an Armenian genocide bill this week, a government source said on Tuesday.

"Turkey will not remain silent. That will obviously have consequences," the source told Agence France Presse.

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Karzai Wants Immediate Halt to NATO Night Raids

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday demanded an immediate halt to NATO-led night raids after the military insisted the operations will continue despite the recent death of a pregnant woman.

Karzai has led public criticism of the controversial raids, saying they endanger lives and harass local communities, and repeatedly called on U.S.-led international forces to stop entering Afghan homes.

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