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U.N. Pulls Non-Essential Staff from Syria

The United Nations on Wednesday said it had withdrawn about 25 international staff and dozens of families of expatriate workers from Syria because of mounting security fears.

"Due to security concerns, we have taken the decision to relocate about 25 non-essential international staff, plus dependents, from Syria," Farhan Haq, the deputy U.N. spokesman, said in New York.

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West, Arab Nations Call for Special U.N. Rights Session on Syria

European countries, the United States and Arab countries will ask the United Nations' top human rights body to hold a special session on the human rights situation in Syria, diplomats told Agence France Presse Wednesday.

"We will submit the request (Wednesday) evening to convene a special session of the Human Rights Council on Monday," according to one European diplomat who wished to remain anonymous.

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Switzerland Widens Sanctions against Syrian Regime

Switzerland widened sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime on Wednesday, adding 12 individuals to a list of key players under financial embargo and travel restriction.

"These restrictive measures have been decreed due to the violent repression that the army and the Syrian security forces have enforced for two months to snuff out peaceful demonstrations by the population," the economy ministry said.

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Palestinian Dies Run Down by Israel Police Jeep

A Palestinian pedestrian was killed overnight when an Israeli border police jeep hit him in an east Jerusalem suburb, the man's family and a border police spokesman told Agence France Presse on Wednesday.

The victim, 38-year-old Amin Talab Dabash, was hit by the jeep as it drove through an area near the Jewish settlement neighborhood of Har Homa in annexed east Jerusalem.

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Russia Maintains Arms Supplies to Syria

Russia is continuing to supply weapons to Syria despite international pressure to cease trading, the head of the arms export agency told journalists on Wednesday.

"While no sanctions are announced, while there are no orders or directions from the government, we are obliged to fulfil our contractual obligations, which we are now doing," Rosoboronexport chief Anatoly Isaikin said.

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At Least 4 Dead as Syria Forces Make Sweeping Arrests

Military operations in Syria killed at least four civilians on Wednesday in an unrelenting crackdown on dissent as a pro-democracy protest movement entered its sixth month, activists said.

The central committee of the ruling Baath party, which has been in power since 1963, met for the first time since protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted in mid-March, pro-government daily Al-Watan said.

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Report: Syria Intimidating Expats Abroad

Syrian diplomats are intimidating expatriates who speak out against the regime, and reporting back home where dissidents' relatives are then threatened and arrested, according to Wednesday's Wall Street Journal.

The Obama administration told the Journal it had "credible" evidence that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is using the reports from its embassies abroad to target relatives of those living overseas, particularly Syrian-Americans who have joined peaceful U.S. protests.

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Report: Israel Ministers Debate Palestinian U.N. Bid

Ministers in the Israeli security cabinet were meeting on Wednesday to discuss the possible scenarios in September when Palestinians try to secure U.N. membership, Israel's main radio stations said.

The meeting was called by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to talk through assessments of how things would play out in New York when the General Assembly meets in mid-September, as well as looking at the expected wave of rallies and demonstrations of support across the Palestinian territories.

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Quartet 'Concerned' by Israeli Settlement Move

The United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations on Tuesday attacked Israel's move to expand a West Bank settlement as a threat to peace efforts.

The new public condemnation of Israel came amid intense efforts by Tony Blair, the diplomatic Quartet's special envoy, to get the Palestinians and Israelis back into direct talks, diplomats reported.

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Turkey Opposes Foreign Intervention, Killing of Civilians in Syria

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday that Turkey is opposed to any foreign intervention in Syria, where the regime's violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests has drawn international condemnation.

"We do not want foreign intervention in Syria," Davutoglu said after a Ramadan fast breaking dinner in Ankara.

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