Latest developments in Arab world's unrest

AP News
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Posted: May 18, 2011 4:13 PM
Latest developments in Arab world's unrest

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SYRIA

Syrian President Bashar Assad claims the country's "crisis" is drawing to a close even as forces unleash tank shells on opponents Wednesday and U.S. sanctions take aim at the Syrian leader and his senior aides for their brutal crackdowns. The messages from Damascus and Washington highlight a sharp divide: Western governments trying to boost pressure on Syria's regime, but Assad displaying confidence he can ride it out. Assad receives a further boost when a call for nationwide strikes falls flat and longtime ally Russia vows to stand against any U.N. resolutions that would sanction Syria.

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LIBYA

Four foreign journalists held by the Libyan government for six weeks are released Wednesday and moved to a Tripoli hotel. Clare Morgana Gillis, an American, says she and her colleagues _ American James Foley, Spaniard Manuel Varela and Briton Nigel Chandler _ are in good health. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's forces intensify their campaign to take strategic heights in a western mountain range and target a road that many people have used to flee the fighting in Libya, forcing the temporary closure of a border crossing to Tunisia.

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EGYPT

Egypt's military rulers deny local media reports they plan to grant amnesty to deposed President Hosni Mubarak following a wave of popular criticism and calls for new protests. The denial follows unconfirmed reports that Mubarak would be pardoned in return for an apology to the nation for any wrongdoing and would also hand over his assets. The reports claimed the ousted leader would release an audio recording appealing for amnesty.

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YEMEN

The head of a coalition of Gulf countries seeking to broker an end to Yemen's political crisis gives up and leaves the country, The Gulf Cooperation Council sought to mediate a deal for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave power in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Saleh snubbed the deal last month, prompting a visit from the coalition's head, Abdul-Latif al-Zayyani, to try to break the impasse. Al-Zayyani, who is from Bahrain, ends his five-day visit without closing the deal, leaving each side blaming the other for the failure.

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BAHRAIN

Three former top editors of Bahrain's main opposition newspaper plead not guilty to charges of unethical coverage of Shiite-led opposition protests against the kingdom's Sunni rulers. The Al Wasat newspaper journalists enter their pleas, and defense lawyers request copies of prosecutors' documents in a brief hearing at Bahrain's Higher Criminal Court. Among the charges they face are "publishing fabricated news."

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TUNISIA

A Tunisian colonel and two foreign militants are killed during a clash near the Algerian border. The attack in Rouhia, in the center-west region of Siliana, is the fourth time in less than a week that Tunisian security forces have uncovered foreign fighters from neighboring countries in North Africa. A third fighter flees, firing an assault rifle at a helicopter. The official TAP news agency quotes local residents as saying the three were wearing explosive belts.