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Call for Quotas for Women as Qatar Holds Rare Vote

Qataris will have a rare chance to vote Wednesday as they choose candidates to sit on the country's only directly elected body, with calls growing to ensure more women are selected.

Only one woman was elected onto the 29-seat municipal council at the last vote and out of 118 candidates this time, only five are female, one fewer than the number who stood in the first such election 16 years ago.

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Kerry Attempts to Reassure Gulf Ministers in Paris Meeting

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Gulf foreign ministers in Paris on Friday ahead of a summit in which President Barack Obama will seek to reassure the Arab monarchies over his Iran policy.

Fresh from a trip to Riyadh where he urged a ceasefire in Yemen, Kerry met foreign ministers from the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

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Experts: French Courtship of Gulf Monarchies is Risky

Hungry for defense deals, France has cosied up to the Gulf monarchies, winning several billion-euro contracts in the process, but its strategy of backing one side in the region's Sunni-Shia power struggle is risky, say experts.

These are boom times for France's defense industry, with the country signing 15 billion euros ($16.7 billion) worth of weapons deals this year -- almost double its 8.1-billion tally for the whole of 2014. 

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Qatar Says Yemen's Hadi Wants Peace Talks May 17 in Riyadh

Yemen's exiled president wants talks between his country's rival political forces to begin in the Saudi capital on May 17, Qatar's foreign minister said after a regional summit on Tuesday.

This is the first time a date has been mentioned for the proposed talks, which the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council insists must be held in Riyadh, which is leading a coalition launching air strikes on Iran-backed Yemen rebels.

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Taliban Kill at Least 13 Afghan Police despite Peace Talks

Taliban militants killed at least 13 policemen after storming security outposts in Afghanistan's remote mountainous northeast, officials said Tuesday, despite peace talks between insurgent representatives and an Afghan delegation.

The pre-dawn raid in Badakhshan province on Monday came just weeks after a similar Taliban raid on army checkpoints in the province in which 18 soldiers were killed -- including some who were beheaded.

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Fabius: France, Saudi Discussing Multi-Billion-Euro Projects

France and Saudi Arabia are discussing economic projects worth tens of billions of euros, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday.

"If concluded, these 20 projects would be worth tens of billions of euros," Fabius told reporters in Riyadh.

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Reports: Indonesia to Stop Sending Domestic Workers to Lebanon

Indonesia will stop sending new domestic workers to 21 Middle Eastern countries, including Lebanon, reports said Tuesday, after the recent execution of two Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia angered Jakarta.

Other countries affected by the ban are Saudi Arabia -- a major destination for Indonesian maids -- United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and Egypt.

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Hollande Oversees Qatar Jet Deal, Lands in Saudi to Attend GCC Summit

French President Francois Hollande sought to boost ties in the Gulf Monday as he oversaw the signing of a warplanes deal with Qatar and arrived in Saudi Arabia for a summit.

Hollande was to be the first Western head of state to attend a Gulf Cooperation Council annual gathering when it meets in Riyadh on Tuesday.

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Suicide Attack on Kabul Bus Kills One, Wounds 15

A Taliban suicide bomber struck a government bus in Kabul Monday, killing one civilian and wounding 15 others, officials said, as insurgent representatives hold talks with an Afghan delegation aimed at ending the country's 13-year war.

The bus was carrying employees of the attorney general's office to work in downtown Kabul when the attacker detonated his suicide vest, as the militants press on with their annual spring offensive.

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Afghan Delegation to Meet with Taliban in Qatar

An Afghan delegation left for Qatar Saturday where they will hold two days of "open discussion" with Taliban representatives aimed at ending Afghanistan's long war, according to an official.

"A 20-member Afghan delegation, two from the High Peace Council, left to attend talks in Qatar on Sunday and Monday," Abdul Hakim Mujahid, first deputy of the council, told AFP.

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