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Egypt Military Cracks Down on Gaza Tunnels

Egypt's military has started to close smuggling tunnels to Gaza, witnesses said on Saturday, amid Israeli warnings of plans by Gazan militants to attack the Jewish state through Egyptian territory.

Witnesses along the 12-kilometre border with the Islamist Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave said soldiers had begun using earth-moving equipment to seal tunnel openings with rocks and sand.

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Fighters Tell Gadhafi Town to Surrender by Sunday

Libyan fighters have given forces in Bani Walid until 08:00 GMT Sunday to surrender, a commander said, adding Moammar Gadhafi's son Saadi was still there but another, Seif al-Islam, had fled.

"The revolutionaries have given an ultimatum to the tribal chiefs in Bani Walid," Abdulrazzak Naduri, deputy chief of the military council in Tarhuna, told AFP.

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Frattini Says Italy to Keep its Top Spot in Libyan Energy Sector

Italy will maintain its pre-eminent position in Libya's energy production sector, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini pledged on Saturday.

"Italy will maintain its first place. We have done so and we will continue to do so," Frattini stressed when quizzed on the ability of Libya's former colonial power to hang on to its position in the face of fresh interest from elsewhere, notably France, following the fall of Moammar Gadhafi.

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Red Cross Chief in Syria for Talks with Assad

The Red Cross chief arrived in Syria on Saturday for talks with President Bashar Assad on access to prisoners and areas worst hit by a deadly crackdown on anti-government protests, his organization said.

Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, flew in for a two-day visit and will also meet Prime Minister Adel Safar and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, ICRC delegation chief in Damascus Marianne Gasser told Agence France Presse.

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U.N. Chief's Envoy Arrives in Tripoli

A special envoy for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Tripoli on Saturday, as the international body stepped up efforts to put Libya on a path towards democracy.

Ian Martin landed at a military airport in the capital, as Ban said the world body was ready to assist in re-establishing security after the nearly seven-month uprising that ousted Moammar Gadhafi.

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Death Toll in Syrian Regime Crackdown on Protests Rises to 21

The death toll from Syrian security force action against anti-government protests on Friday has risen to 21, activists said as a European Union oil embargo went into effect on Saturday.

"The number of civilians killed over the past 24 hours has reached 21 -- nine in the Damascus area, nine in the (central) province of Homs and three in Deir Ezzor" in the east, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

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Iran Shelling Kills Shepherd in North Iraq

Iranian shelling during a campaign against Kurdish rebels killed a shepherd and damaged farms and houses in north Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region on Saturday, local officials said.

"A Kurdish shepherd, Bassem Farman Mohammed, was killed by Iranian shelling of the border area that began at about 8:30 am (0530 GMT)," said Maqdid Aref Ahmed, mayor of the Haj Omran district of Arbil province.

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Russia Invites Libya's New Government Officials to Moscow for Energy Talks

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday said Russia had invited members of Libya's transitional government to Moscow for energy talks, the Interfax news agency reported.

"They suggested holding meetings. We invited representatives to Moscow on their request. We will discuss all this with them," Lavrov was quoted as telling journalists at a regional summit in Dushanbe.

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Lavrov: We Disapprove EU Oil Embargo on Syria

Russia disapproves of the European Union oil embargo imposed on Syria, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday, the Interfax news agency reported.

"We have always said that unilateral sanctions will do no good. This destroys a partnership approach to any crisis," Lavrov was quoted as telling journalists at a regional summit in Dushanbe.

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Ban: Improvement of Turkish-Israeli Ties Important for Peace Process

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon Saturday said he sincerely hoped that Israel and Turkey could improve ties, saying both states were critical to improving stability in the Middle East.

"I sincerely hope that Israel and Turkey will improve their relationship," Ban told reporters in Canberra after Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador to Ankara and suspended all military ties with its one-time ally.

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