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TOP STORIES

Syrian opposition chief under fire for Assad ally talks

MUNICH - Syria's opposition leader flies back to his Cairo

headquarters from Germany to explain to sceptical allies his

decision to talk with President Bashar al-Assad's main backers

Russia and Iran, in the hope of a breakthrough in the

crisis.(SYRIA-CRISIS/ (WRAPUP 2, PIX), moved, by Khaled Yacoub

Oweis and Stephen Brown, 700 words)

French planes pound Islamist camps in northern Mali desert

PARIS/BAMAKO - French warplanes pound Islamist rebel camps

in the far north of Mali on Sunday, a day after French President

Francois Hollande was hailed as a saviour during a visit to the

West African country. (MALI-REBELS/ (UPDATE 2, PIX, TV), moved,

by Elena Berton and Tiemoko Diallo, 700 words)

- MALI-REBELS/TIMBUKTU (TV, PIX), moved, by David Lewis, 700

words

Iran hedges on nuclear talks with six powers or U.S.

MUNICH - Iran says it is open to a U.S. offer of direct

talks on its nuclear programme and that six world powers have

suggested a new round of nuclear negotiations this month, but

without committing itself to either proposal.

(IRAN-NUCLEAR/SALEHI (UPDATE 3), moved, by Adrian Croft and

Alexandra Hudson, 600 words)

Fidel Castro votes, chats in Cuban election

HAVANA - Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro voted in Cuba's

general election on Sunday and chatted with well wishers and

Cuban reporters in Havana for more than an hour, in his first

extended public appearance since 2010. A stooped, snow white

bearded Castro, 86, was seen on state-run television as he cast

his ballot in the late afternoon, wearing a blue plaid shirt and

light blue jacket. (CUBA-ELECTION/ (UPDATE 2, PIX, TV), moved,

by Marc Frank, 732 words)

ASIA

Myanmar to hold peace talks in China with Kachin rebels

YANGON - The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said it had

agreed to hold talks with Myanmar's government in China starting

Monday, to try to end stubborn conflict with the military that

has intensified in the past two months. The meeting will be held

in the Chinese border town of Ruili, which has hosted three

rounds of talks since a 17-year ceasefire broke down in June

2011. (MYANMAR-KACHIN/, moved, 371 words)

China and Japan seek to dial down tensions, but risks remain

TOKYO/SHANGHAI - Two Japanese F-15s scramble as a Chinese

plane nears the disputed islands: one in the lead, the other

providing cover. That's how the risky game being played near a

chain of rocky, uninhabited isles at the heart of a row between

Beijing and Tokyo could quickly escalate to the danger point, a

former Japanese air force pilot says. (JAPAN-CHINA/FLASHPOINT

(ANALYSIS, PIX, GRAPHIC), moved, by Linda Sieg and John Ruwitch,

994 words)

Politics of pollution: China oil giants choke-hold on power

BEIJING - The search for culprits behind the rancid haze

enveloping China's capital turns a spotlight on the country's

two largest oil companies and their resistance to tougher fuel

standards. (CHINA-POLLUTION/OILCOMPANIES (PIX), moved, by

Sui-Lee Wee and Hui Li, 1420 words)

Pakistan army's legacy of mistrust in Taliban heartland

CHAGMALAI, Pakistan - In a Pakistani army base high in the

mountains on the Afghan frontier, a general explains a strategy

for fighting the Taliban that he calls simply "WHAM". Soldiers

are learning to fight a new kind of war in a region U.S.

President Barack Obama has called the most dangerous on

Earth.(PAKISTAN-MILITARY/ (PIX), moved, by Mehreen Zahra-Malik,

1,470 words)

MIDDLE EAST

Ahmadinejad accuses Iran speaker's family of corruption

DUBAI - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accuses the parliament

speaker's family of corruption, turning a long-standing rivalry

between two of Iran's most powerful figures into a face-to-face

feud, months before an election. (IRAN-POLITICS/ (UPDATE 1),

moved, by Yeganeh Torbati, 600 words)

Attackers kills 33 at police HQ in disputed Iraqi city

KIRKUK, Iraq - At least 33 people are killed in the Iraqi

city of Kirkuk when a suicide bomber detonates a truck packed

with explosives outside a police headquarters before gunmen

disguised as officers try to storm the compound. (IRAQ-VIOLENCE/

(UPDATE 4, TV, PIX), moved, by Mustafa Mahoud, 600 words)

EUROPE

Berlusconi launches 'last great battle,' promises tax cuts

ROME - Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi

announces his "last great electoral and political battle" with a

sweeping promise to cut taxes and the cost of government if his

centre-right wins elections this month. (ITALY-VOTE/ (UPDATE 2,

PIX, TV), by Philip Pullella, moved, 697 words)

Italy Monte Paschi bank probe enters crucial week

ROME - An investigation into illegal activity at Italy's

Monte Paschi bank enters a crucial week when magistrates

question key witnesses in a scandal that has touched off a

political firestorm just three weeks before national elections.

(MONTEPASCHI/ (PIX), moved, by Philip Pullella, 600 words)

UNITED STATES

Obama: more tax revenue needed to address U.S. deficit -CBS

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama says more tax revenue

will be needed to reduce the U.S. deficit and signals he will

push hard to get rid of loopholes such as the "carried interest"

tax break enjoyed by private equity and hedge fund managers.

(USA-TAXES/OBAMA (UPDATE 1), moved, by Jeff Mason, 575 words)

Obama encourages Boy Scouts of America to end ban on gays

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama encourages the Boy

Scouts of America to end its ban on gay members and leaders,

days before the group is expected to vote on the controversial

and long-standing rule. (USA-BOYSCOUTS/GAYS-OBAMA, moved, by

Jeff Mason, 400 words)

AMERICAS

Deadly Pemex blast tests Mexico's new president

MEXICO CITY - A deadly blast at Mexican state oil firm

Pemex's headquarters is the first key test of new President Pena

Nieto's promise that his party has broken with a past of shady

cover-ups, and if handled properly could help him overhaul the

lumbering giant. (MEXICO-PEMEX/ (ANALYSIS, PIX, TV, GRAPHIC),

moved, By Michael O'Boyle and David Alire Garcia, 1025 words)

(Editing by Michael Perry)

UNDERSTANDING THE SYRIA CONFLICT