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EGYPT

Military leaders apologize, vow elections as scheduled

CAIRO | Egypt’s military rulers apologized Thursday for the police killings of demonstrators and vowed to maintain security at next week’s elections despite mass protests and deadly street violence.

“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) presents its regrets and deep apologies for the deaths of martyrs from among Egypt’s loyal sons during the recent events in Tahrir Square,” it said on its Facebook page.

After a truce negotiated by Muslim clerics, an uneasy calm gripped crowds gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the scene of days of deadly clashes between security forces and protesters demanding an immediate end of military rule.

The SCAF said stepping down would amount to a “betrayal” of the Egyptian people and insisted that parliamentary elections scheduled to start Monday would take place on time.

At least 38 protesters have been killed and more than 2,000 injured since Saturday, when the clashes first erupted, prompting concern from Western governments and a U.N. call for an independent inquiry into the “excessive use of force.”

SYRIA

Arab League gives ultimatum on observers

BEIRUT | An Arab League committee on Thursday gave Syria 24 hours to agree to allow an observer mission into the country, or face sanctions that include stopping financial dealings and freezing assets.

The bloodshed in the country continued. Activists reported at least 15 people killed, including civilians and security forces.

The threat was a humiliating blow to Damascus, a founding member of the Arab League.

President Bashar Assad is under mounting international pressure to stop the brutal crackdown on an uprising against his regime.

The U.N. says has at least 3,500 have been killed since mid-March.

Syria is the scene of the bloodiest crackdown against the Arab Spring’s eruption of protests. Deaths in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen have numbered in the hundreds. Libya’s toll is unknown and is likely higher than Syria‘s, but that conflict differed. Early on, it became an outright civil war between two armed foes.

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