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Briefly: Middle East

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SYRIA

35 dead in four days of gunfire in coastal city

BEIRUT — Heavy machine-gun fire erupted across the besieged city of Latakia on Tuesday as the death toll rose to 35 from a military assault now in its fourth day, residents and activists said.

President Bashar Assad has dramatically escalated the crackdown on a five-month-old uprising since the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

Despite broad international condemnation, the regime has unleashed tanks, ground troops and snipers in an attempt to retake control in rebellious areas.

IRAN

Official: Russia's nuke plan is 'good strategy'

TEHRAN — Iran's top nuclear negotiator says a Russian proposal of "dialogue for cooperation" can be a good strategy to revive talks over the Islamic republic's disputed nuclear program.

Russia's "step-by-step" approach calls for the international community to make limited concessions to Iran for each step it takes toward meeting demands to come clean about its nuclear intentions.

Iran's state TV reports that the announcement was made after Russia's Security Council chief, Nikolai Patrushev, held two rounds of talks with Saeed Jalili in Tehran on Tuesday.

YEMEN

President vows to return, calls for early elections

SANAA — President Ali Abdullah Saleh said he will return to Yemen soon and renewed his calls for early presidential elections.

Mr. Saleh spoke Tuesday from Saudi Arabia, where he has been recuperating from wounds he suffered in a June attack on his palace compound in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

The United States and Mr. Saleh's Saudi hosts have pressured him to remain in Saudi Arabia, fearing his return to Yemen could spark a civil war.

But Mr. Saleh vowed Tuesday he would return home, telling his supporters via a televised address: "See you soon in Sanaa."

He also said he is willing to transfer power to his vice president if the opposition pulls armed tribal fighters from the streets and opposition ends its street rallies.

ISRAEL

Al-Jazeera reporter appears in military court

JERUSALEM — A senior Palestinian journalist with the Arabic language Al-Jazeera satellite network was brought before an Israeli military court Tuesday, nearly a week after soldiers arrested him at a border crossing in the West Bank.

Video footage filmed by Al-Jazeera at the military court showed Samer Allawi, the station's bureau chief in Afghanistan, wearing an olive green prison uniform and speaking to his lawyer.

Under Israeli procedures, Palestinian nationals in the West Bank are tried in military courts.

A spokeswoman for the Shin Bet internal security service refused to release any details about why Mr. Allawi was detained, saying nothing would be made public until the investigation was complete.

Al-Jazeera said Mr. Allawi was detained Aug. 10 along the West Bank border with Jordan as he tried to leave to return to Afghanistan.

Mr. Allawi was in the West Bank spending his annual vacation with his family in his native village of Sebastia, near Nablus.

GAZA STRIP

Hamas restricts aid workers

JERUSALEM — Palestinian rights groups are condemning new orders by Gaza's Hamas rulers that employees of civil society groups register with authorities before traveling for work outside the Gaza Strip.

Gaza rights activist Hamdi Shakoura says the move aims to restrict the freedoms of nongovernmental groups. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights issued a statement Tuesday criticizing the new orders after meeting with a network of aid groups in Gaza.

Hamas' Deputy Interior Minister Kamel Abu Madi says employees must register with authorities two weeks before leaving and explain why they are traveling. They also must identify their hosts and list the names and details of all participants in any program they will attend.

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