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Syrian Troops Pull Out of Tall Kalakh, Deploy on Outskirts

Syrian troops on Thursday began withdrawing from Tall Kalakh, deploying on the outskirts of the western town that had been besieged following pro-democracy protests, a witness told Agence France Presse.

"Some 20,000 soldiers that had been in the town began withdrawing this morning," said the witness who did not want to be identified. "We counted 80 tanks and armored personnel carriers and buses."

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Obama on Mideast: 2 Leaders Stepped Aside, More May Follow, Repression Won't Work

U.S. President Barack Obama declared Thursday that the borders of Israel and a Palestinian state must be based on 1967 lines, likely setting up a new clash with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a long-awaited survey of the "Arab spring" of revolts, Obama compared "shouts of human dignity" across the region to America's birth pangs and civil rights struggles, and said the uprisings showed repression would not work.

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Tunisian Authorities Deny Gadhafi Family Members Fled

Authorities in Tunis on Thursday denied reports that members of embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's family, including his wife and daughter, had fled and arrived in Tunisia.

"These reports are totally false," said a government source, stressing that "no member of the Gadhafi family has crossed the Tunisian border" with Libya, where Gadhafi loyalists are fighting to put down a rebellion.

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35 Dead as Taliban Attack Afghan Road Company

Taliban fighters attacked an Afghan road construction company before dawn Thursday, triggering gun battles that killed 35 people and wounded another 20 in the worst single attack in months.

The attack, which sparked a shootout lasting five hours, happened in the eastern province of Paktia, which borders Pakistan, at around 2:00am (2130 GMT Wednesday), a provincial spokesman said.

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Yemen Regime, Opposition to Ink GCC-Brokered Accord Sunday

A Gulf-sponsored accord to end a bloody political dispute between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Yemen's opposition will be signed on Sunday, opposition and ruling party officials said.

"The signing will take place on Sunday in Sanaa," Sultan al-Barakani, the assistant secretary general of the ruling General People's Congress, said of an accord sponsored by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

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Ahmadinejad Accuses West of 'causing drought' in Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday accused Western countries of devising plans to "cause drought" in the Islamic republic, as he inaugurated a dam in a central province.

"Western countries have designed plans to cause drought in certain areas of the world, including Iran," the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying in the central city of Arak in Markazi province.

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Syria Slams U.S. Sanctions on Assad amid Calls for Friday Protests

Syria denounced Thursday U.S. sanctions imposed on President Bashar al-Assad and top aides, saying they were part of long-time efforts by Washington to impose its will in the region to Israel's benefit.

The Syrian Revolution 2011, a Facebook group spurring anti-regime protests, meanwhile called for fresh demonstrations on Friday for "liberty and national unity."

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Bahrain Jails 9 for 20 Years for Policeman Kidnap

A special security court in Bahrain has sentenced nine people to 20 years in prison each after it convicted them of abducting a policeman, state news agency BNA reported Thursday.

"The Lower National Safety Court sentenced nine defendants accused of kidnapping one policeman to 20 years in prison," according to an English-language statement on BNA that did not give further details.

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Series of Attacks on North Iraq Police kill 27

A spate of bomb attacks against police in the disputed northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Thursday killed at least 27 people, the worst violence to hit Iraq in nearly two months.

A further 89 people were wounded in the three attacks; with just months to go before U.S. forces must withdraw from the country.

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Bin Laden in Posthumous Message: Winds of Change Will Blow Over Muslim World

Al-Qaida has released a message from slain leader Osama bin Laden praising the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia and urging Muslims to take advantage of a "rare historic opportunity" to rise up, U.S. monitors said.

The message posted on jihadist forums on Wednesday by al-Qaida's media arm As-Sahab addresses Muslims on the revolutions sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, SITE Intelligence said.

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