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Iran Says Installing 'Speedier' Nuclear Centrifuges

Iran announced Tuesday it is installing new centrifuges with "better quality and speed" to enrich uranium in its nuclear facilities, defying international demands it halt its atomic activities.

"The installation of new centrifuges with better quality and speed is ongoing. We have announced it and the agency (U.N. atomic watchdog) has full supervision on them," Iranian foreign minister spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters at his weekly press briefing.

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Saleh Says Dialogue Needed to End Yemen Crisis

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for "peaceful dialogue," saying that is the way to end the country's long-running political crisis, in an editorial published on Monday.

"We have never ceased to emphasize the necessity of a peaceful dialogue to find a solution to all these problems," Saleh wrote in an editorial that was published in Al-Thawra and other official newspapers.

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Under-fire Egypt PM Delays Swearing-in of New Cabinet

Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf on Monday postponed the swearing-in of a new cabinet intended to deflect anger over the pace of reform as protesters said the shakeup did not go far enough.

Sharaf, who heads a caretaker government after a revolt toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak in February, had hoped the sweeping reshuffle would persuade the protesters to end a 10-day-old sit-in at Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square.

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Syria Recognizes Palestinian State

The Syrian foreign ministry said Monday that Damascus recognizes a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital within the borders in effect prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.

"Syria recognizes a Palestinian state within the June 4, 1967 borders and east Jerusalem as its capital, and on the basis of the preservation of Palestinian legitimate rights," a statement said.

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Libyan Rebels Claim Control of Brega

Libya's rebels claimed control of Brega on Monday, as most pro-Gadhafi troops retreated westward leaving around 150-200 loyalist fighters pinned down inside the oil town, a spokesman said.

"The bulk of (Moammar) Gadhafi's forces have retreated to Ras Lanuf," rebel spokesman Shamsiddine Abdulmolah told Agence France Presse, referring to another oil hub some 50 kilometers to the west.

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GCC Protests at Iran Cleric's Remarks on Bahrain

The secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Monday delivered a protest note to Iran's ambassador to Saudi Arabia over an Iranian cleric's remarks on Bahrain, a GCC statement said.

Abdul Latif Zayani gave Ambassador Mohammed Rasuli a note of "official protest from the Gulf Cooperation Council, totally rejecting the provocative and false claims in the Friday sermon of ... Ayatollah Ahmed Janati against the kingdom of Bahrain," the statement said.

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Qatari Ambassador Quits Syria

Qatar's ambassador to Damascus, Zayed al-Khayarine, has quit Syria and the embassy has suspended its work, an official from the Qatari delegation told Agence France Presse on Monday.

"The diplomats have left Syria and work has been suspended until further notice," the official said, declining to be identified.

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Bahrain Deplores Shiite Opposition Pullout from Talks

Bahrain said Monday it "regrets" the withdrawal of the main Shiite opposition bloc from a national dialogue on reforms but insisted that the talks will go on with other groups.

"We regret the decision, by any participant, to withdraw from Bahrain's dialogue," Issa Abdel Rahman, the spokesman for the dialogue, said in a statement.

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Iraq MPs Discuss Plans to Downsize Government

Iraqi MPs discussed plans on Monday to reduce the cabinet, following criticism that the months-old national unity government has been stuck in paralysis as it tries to rebuild the war-battered country.

Lawmakers symbolically voted to support the principle of slimming the government, following proposals by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to slash the size of his government by a third, with the premier openly acknowledging that the bloated cabinet has become a "burden."

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French Boat to Reach Gaza on Tuesday

A French yacht carrying pro-Palestinian activists which set sail from a Greek island at the weekend, is expected to reach the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, organizers said.

The Dignite (al-Karama) left the Greek island of Kastellorizo late on Saturday following a troubled stay in Greece after Athens imposed a ban on the departure of any ships planning to join an international aid flotilla heading for Gaza.

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