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Gaza Fighting Continues Amid Cease-fire Talks in Egypt


ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israeli troops and Hamas militants entered their third week of battle today in the Gaza Strip, as diplomatic efforts continued in Egypt to try to bring the violence to an end. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was in Cairo today for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on an Egyptian cease-fire proposal. At a news conference, Mr. Abbas urged acceptance of the measure, calling it the "only mechanism" that can end the bloodshed. Both Israel and Hamas have dismissed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire.

RUSSIA - EUROPE - GAS: Russian gas deliveries to Europe remain suspended, after Russia and Ukraine on Friday failed to reach a deal to monitor gas flow through Ukraine. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, is expected to fly to Moscow today after overseeing Friday's negotiations in Kyiv. Both sides traded blame after Friday's negotiations failed to result in a deal on a mechanism to monitor gas deliveries. Russia's state-run energy firm, Gazprom, has pledged to resume deliveries to Europe once a deal is signed.

BIDEN - ASIA TRIP: U.S. Vice President-elect Joe Biden arrived in Afghanistan today for talks with political and military leaders in the war-ravaged country. Biden is scheduled to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. General David McKiernan, head of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan. The Democrat's visit follows a trip to Pakistan, where he held separate talks Friday with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari. Media reports from Islamabad say the discussions focused on Pakistan's commitment to the war on terrorism, as well as heightened tensions between Pakistan and India since the November terror attacks in Mumbai.

PAKISTAN - VIOLENCE: Police in Pakistan say at least seven people have been killed and more than a dozen wounded in clashes between two rival Muslim sects in the northwestern part of the country. Authorities say the latest violence in the Hangu district erupted Friday and continued into today . They did not say what sparked the fighting. Hangu has been the scene of sectarian violence between Pakistan's majority Sunni and minority Shi'ites in the past. Authorities say they have increased security and are trying to restore order.

SOMALIA PIRATES: Iranian media report Somali pirates have released an Iranian chartered cargo ship seized off the coast of Yemen in November. The reports published today did not say if a ransom had been paid for the Hong Kong flagged ship and its 25 member crew. It was carrying 36-thousand tons of wheat when it was seized. The ship is the second to be released by pirates in two days. On Friday a Saudi-owned oil tanker hijacked nearly two months ago was allowed to sail for open waters following the reported payment of a three-million dollar ransom.

TAIWAN - TIBET: Taiwanese officials say they may grant permanent residency to Tibetan refugees who are in Taiwan without legal status. Taiwan's Central News Agency said 109 Tibetans were granted temporary Alien Resident Certificates on Friday. They are expected to gain permanent residency after Taiwanese lawmakers next week approve an amendment to Taiwan's immigration law. Most of the group arrived in Taiwan between 1999 and 2008 on Indian and Nepali passports. Officials say they either overstayed their visas, or were traveling on forged travel documents.

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