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Al-Rahi Hopes Success for French Presidential Envoy

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi expressed hope on Tuesday that a French presidential envoy would be able to resolve the Baabda Palace impasse.

Before traveling to Rome, al-Rahi hoped that Jean-François Girault, who is the director of the department of the Middle East and North Africa at the French Foreign Ministry, would “succeed in his mission.”

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Italy in Major Swoop against 'Ndrangheta Mafia Group

Italian police on Wednesday held 163 people across the country in a major move against the notorious 'Ndrangheta mafia.

More than 40 of the arrests and detentions were made in Calabria, the crime group's southern homeland, but the bulk came in towns and cities across the north of Italy, where it has spread its tentacles in recent years.

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Italy in New Swoop Against Notorious 'Ndrangheta

Italian police on Tuesday made 31 arrests in connection with an alleged plot by an offshoot of the notorious 'Ndrangheta crime group to take control of Rome's cocaine trade.

Based in the impoverished southern region of Calabria, the 'Ndrangheta is said to be behind most of Europe's cocaine business, and is regarded as the most powerful mafia organization in Italy.

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Italy Leaves Room For Doubt on Hostages Ransom Claims

The Italian government said Friday it was opposed to paying ransoms to hostage takers but stopped short of explicitly denying money changed hands before the release of two women abducted in Syria.

Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told parliament that suggestions that Italy had paid $12 million (10 million euros) to the Syrian branch of al-Qaida were based on "unfounded rumors" emanating from terrorist organizations which should not be given any credence.

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Plane Evacuated at Rome Airport over Bomb Alert

A bomb alert at Rome's Fiumicino airport forced officials to evacuate a Vienna-bound flight shortly before take-off after a passenger told the captain he had explosives in his luggage, Italian media reported Wednesday. 

The plane, operated by Austrian budget airline Fly Niki, was immediately steered into an isolated area of the airport and the passengers were taken off.

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Kerry in Rome for Talks on Palestinian Statehood Bid

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Rome on Sunday for a flurry of meetings about a looming showdown at the United Nations amid a European-led drive to push moves towards Palestinian statehood.

U.S. officials told reporters accompanying Kerry on his plane that Washington wanted to learn more about the European position, saying the U.S. administration had not yet decided whether to back or veto any U.N. resolution on the issue.

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Rome Mayor Defies Mobster Threats, Refuses to Quit

The mayor of Rome on Sunday said he refused to be intimidated by threats from the criminal underworld and defied calls for him to resign over a scandal which has rocked the Italian capital.

Ignazio Marino had been advised by Rome's prefect not to use his bicycle any more because of threats from "dangerous organizations" which emerged this week after an anti-mafia sweep revealed a web of dirty deals between political figures and a notorious mobster.

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Egypt's Sisi Heads to Rome on First European Visit

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi left for Rome Monday on his first European trip since ousting his Islamist predecessor and overseeing a crackdown that has killed hundreds.

Sisi is to meet Pope Francis at 1330 GMT on the first Vatican visit by an Egyptian leader in eight years, officials said.

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Hariri Says Exerting All Efforts to End Baabda Vacuum

Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader ex-PM Saad Hariri reiterated on Monday that he was trying hard to push for the election of a new president in Lebanon.

In an interview with the French daily Le Figaro, Hariri said: “Lebanon's coexistence … is menaced by the paralysis of institutions amid a presidential vacuum.”

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Berri Heads to Geneva, May Meet Hariri, al-Rahi in Rome

Speaker Nabih Berri traveled to Geneva to attend a parliamentary conference as media reports said Sunday he may make a stop in Italy to hold talks with Mustaqbal Movement leader MP Saad Hariri and Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi.

The daily An Nahar said that the speaker is set to return to Lebanon on Friday and may travel to Rome, which Hariri and al-Rahi are currently visiting.

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