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Ex-UK Minister Not Conspiracy Victim in ‘Plebs’ Row: Prosecutors

London - A British government minister who resigned after a foul-mouthed altercation with armed police outside Prime Minister David Cameron's office was not the victim of "a conspiracy of misinformation" to smear him, prosecutors said on Tuesday. Andrew Mitchell resigned in October last year amid disputed reports that he had called police officers who had refused to open a gate for him "plebs", a derogatory ...

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Merkel, SPD Ready for All-Night Showdown on German Coalition

Berlin - Chancellor Angela Merkel and the leader of Germany's Social Democrats (SPD) will meet late on Tuesday to try to hammer out a "grand coalition" agreement in a decisive round of negotiations expected to last until far beyond midnight. The final scheduled round of talks between Merkel's conservatives and the SPD begins at 7:30 p.m. (1830 GMT). They have a long list of unresolved issues to sort out tha ...

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Egypt Investigates Disappearance of Author Critical of Islam

Cairo - Police in Cairo are investigating the disappearance of an Egyptian-born German author and critic of Islam, security sources said on Tuesday, months after a cleric declared him an infidel and called for his death. Hamed Abdel-Samad, author of "The Downfall of the Islamic World: A Prognosis", went missing in recent days, according to a missing person's report filed by his brother, police sources said. ...

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Thai Protesters Step up Campaign to Oust Government

Bangkok - Thousands of protesters surrounded Thailand's Interior Ministry and forced the evacuation of four others on Tuesday, intensifying their campaign to bring down the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The demonstrators defied a tough security law imposed late on Monday, after they stormed two other ministries, to control rallies against Yingluck and her billionaire brother, former prem ...

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Russia Says EU Criticism over Ukraine Shift Inappropriate

Moscow - President Vladimir Putin's spokesman hit back at the European Union on Tuesday, saying it was wrong to criticize Russia over Ukraine's decision to back away from a trade deal with the EU and draw closer to Moscow. "In this case it is inappropriate to speak of any kind of pressure," Interfax news agency quoted Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as saying in Russia's first public response to a strongl ...

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Free Syrian Army Says No Ceasefire for Geneva Talks

Damascus - The commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) said on Tuesday his group would not join a planned peace conference in Switzerland in January and would pursue its fight to topple President Bashar al-Assad regardless. General Salim Idriss's stance highlights how hard it will be for international mediators to get Syria's warring and divided parties to the negotiating table in Geneva. Assad's gove ...

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Kabul Hails Iran Nuclear Deal

KABUL (PAN): The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on Tuesday hailed the recent agreement reached in Geneva between Iran and world powers as a positive tension-defusing step. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: "Afghanistan welcomes the agreement reached on November 24 in Geneva between our neighboring, friendly and brotherly country and the P5+1 group.” A statement from the ministry said the Afghan governm ...

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Senate Drops Tribe Name, Religion from CNIC

KABUL (PAN): The Meshrano Jirga on Tuesday approved some more provisions of a draft law on population census, but decided against mentioning tribe’s name, penname and religion in computerised national identity cards (CNICs). Having 7 chapters and 39 articles, the law was approved by the Wolesi Jirga -- or lower house of the parliament -- in July, amid objections from some members to the way it was passed. T ...

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Deadlock Persists, US Again Warns of Zero Option

KABUL (PAN): President Hamid Karzai and America's National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice have failed to narrow down Kabul-Washington differences over the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) on a future US military presence in Afghanistan. On a trip to visit US troops in Afghanistan, Rice had a meeting with Karzai at his office in Kabul on Monday night, when the president reaffirmed his admini ...

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Protect the Vulnerable Segments of Society

After more than twelve years of internationally-backed efforts for improving human rights, the situation of vulnerable parts of the society including women, children, religious minorities and other underprivileged parts of the society remain distressing. As the international coalition is withdrawing from Afghanistan, there are increasing reports of the violation of human rights and deteriorating situation o ...

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Libyan Army Clashes with Islamist Militants, Nine Killed

Tripoli - Clashes between Libyan troops and militants in the eastern city of Benghazi on Monday killed at least nine people and wounded a dozen in another test of the country's fledgling armed forces. Still in training, Libya's new military is struggling to curb Islamist militants and militias who fought in the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi but refuse to disarm and control parts of the country. Gunfire a ...

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90pc Work on Ghazni Airport Completed

GHAZNI CITY - Ninety percent of construction work on the Ghazni airport has been completed and the project would be fully executed within a month, officials said on Monday. Shafiq Nang, the governor’s spokesperson, told Pajhwok Afghan News the airport boundary wall and runway were about to be completed and work on its terminal would begin soon. If payments were not delayed by the Ministry of Finance, the ai ...

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HRW Wants Karzai to Reject Stoning Proposal

KABUL - An influential global rights watchdog on Monday asked the Afghan government to immediately reject a proposal to restore stoning as punishment for adultery. A working group, led by the Ministry of Justice, is assisting in drafting a new penal code outlining provisions on “moral crimes” involving sex outside of marriage. The code suggests stoning to deter the crime. Human Rights Watch urged internatio ...

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China Says Islamist’s Holy War Message Proves Terror Threat

Beijing - An Islamist militant group's speech claiming responsibility for a deadly car crash in Beijing's Tiananmen Square should silence skeptics regarding the threat of terror within China's borders, the country's Foreign Ministry said on Monday. A group calling itself the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) has released a Uighur-language audio speech by its leader, Abdullah Mansour, in which he said the incide ...

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U.N. Official Says Malaysia Should Reverse ‘Allah’ Ban

Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia should reverse a ban on a Christian newspaper using the word "Allah" to refer to God, a U.N. official said on Monday about a decision that fanned religious tension in the mainly Muslim country. Malaysia's second highest court ruled in October that the Catholic newspaper, the Herald, could not use the word "Allah" to refer to God, in a landmark decision on an issue that has fanned rel ...

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Saudi Arabia, Kuwait Tighten Controls on Clerics

Riyadh - Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have been quietly reining in their clerics on concerns that preachers could use their influence to stir up trouble and inflame sectarian divisions at a time of high tension over the crises in Syria and Egypt. Authorities in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and home to a powerful conservative clergy, have declined to respond to local media reports in recent months which ...

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EU “Strongly Disapproves” of Russia’s Action over Ukraine

Brussels - The European Union's offer to sign a free trade and political association agreement with Ukraine remains on the table despite Kiev's decision to seek closer ties with Russia, the EU's top two officials said on Monday. In a joint statement issued days before Ukraine was due to sign the EU free-trade agreement at a summit in Vilnius, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Co ...

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U.N. Nuclear Agency Begins Review of Japan’s Fukushima Plant

Tokyo - U.N. nuclear experts arrived in Japan on Monday to assess the decommissioning of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant and the operator's progress in removing fuel rods from a destroyed reactor building and minimizing leaks of contaminated water. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.'s watchdog for nuclear power, is conducting its second review of plans for decommissioning that may t ...

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UN: Syria Peace Talks to Take Place Jan. 22

New York - Syria's government and opposition will hold their first peace talks on Jan. 22 in Geneva, in an attempt to halt the nearly 3-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people, the United Nations announced Monday. Previous attempts to bring the two sides together have failed mainly because of disputes over who should represent the Syrian opposition and government, and whether Iran, Saudi ...

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Presidential Runners’ Names Placed on Ballot Paper

KABUL - A lucky draw, organised by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), on Monday gave each candidate for the 2014 presidential elections a place on the ballot paper. A meeting, attended by presidential runners’ representatives and members of civil society groups, participated in the IEC-organised meeting in Kabul. Candidate names based on THE draw are. 1-    Dr Abdullah Abdullah 2-    Daud Sultanzoy ...

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