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Syrian Army Mobilizes in Banias

Syrian troops encircled the flashpoint coastal town of Banias Monday, where weekend shootings left 13 dead and scores wounded, a human rights activist said.

"Seventeen tanks were deployed" to Banias, the activist told Agence France Presse, adding that the army had surrounded the northwestern city and electricity had been cut off.

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Libyan Rebels Reject to Ceasefire without Gadhafi Pullback

Libyan rebels said Monday that any ceasefire would require the withdrawal of government troops from the streets and freedom of expression, as African mediators were due in their stronghold.

"The people must be allowed to go into the streets to express their opinion and the soldiers must return to their barracks," Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, a spokesman for the rebels' Transitional National Council, told Agence France Presse.

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Yemen Protesters Reject Gulf Exit Plan

Yemen anti-regime protesters have rejected a proposal from mediating Gulf States that embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh should pass power to his deputy, a leading activist said Monday.

"We are not concerned by any solution negotiated between the regime and the opposition that does not answer our main demand: the fall of the regime and its figures," said Adel al-Rabyi, from the Youth for Change coalition of protest groups that have led demonstrations across the country since late January.

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Lieberman: Israel Should Topple Hamas

Israel should not settle for a truce with Hamas in Gaza, and should instead seek to topple the Islamist rulers of the coastal strip, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday.

"The goal that we have settled on, of seeking a return to calm, is a grave error because it will allow Hamas to reinforce along the lines of Hizbullah," Lieberman told public radio.

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Iran Expels Several Kuwaiti Diplomats

Iran has expelled "several" Kuwaiti diplomats in retaliation for the expulsion of Tehran's diplomats accused of spying in the Gulf emirate, the Arabic-language al-Alam television reported on Sunday.

"Iran expelled in retaliation several Kuwaiti diplomats," the station announced, quoting an informed source who did not reveal how many diplomats had been asked to leave the country.

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Rights Activists Say Syrian Security Forces Killed 28 Protesters

Syrian security forces killed a total of 28 people on Friday, human rights activists said Sunday.

Twenty-six died at the funerals of protesters killed in and around the southern agricultural town of Daraa, while two more were shot dead in the industrial town of Homs, in west central Syria.

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WikiLeaks: Israel Ruled Out Iran Strike in 2005

Israeli defense officials ruled out a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities as early as 2005, U.S. diplomatic cables leaked to whistleblower site WikiLeaks show, an Israeli newspaper said Sunday.

The documents given to the Haaretz newspaper by WikiLeaks detail conversations between U.S. diplomats and Israeli defense officials, which suggested the Jewish state did not plan to target Iran's controversial nuclear program.

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Barak Floats Ceasefire if Gaza’s Militants Hold Fire

Israel is ready to stop firing on the Gaza Strip if Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave end a barrage of rocket and mortar fire, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday.

His comments came after Gaza's Hamas rulers declared a state of emergency for its security services in the wake of confrontations with Israel that have killed 18 Palestinians since Thursday.

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Iran Says Ready to 'Resolve' Issues with Arabs

Iran is prepared to diplomatically "resolve" differences with its Arab neighbors, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Saturday, as tensions simmer between Tehran and the Gulf monarchies.

"If there are some mistrusts (between Iran and the Arab countries), we can sit down and resolve them through diplomatic channels," Salehi said during a press conference translated into English by Iran's Press TV channel.

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Shelling Nears Ajdabiya as Gadhafi Forces Advance

Advancing pro-government forces shelled retreating rebel fighters west of Ajdabiya on Saturday, an Agence France Presse correspondent in the key Libyan road junction town heard.

At least 10 loud explosions rocked the outskirts of the town in a major setback for the rebels, who earlier in the day had pushed towards the oil refinery town of Brega on the central coast, 80 kilometers further west.

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