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UNITED NATIONS

U.N. chief: Palestinians should defer agency bids

CANNES, FRANCE | Palestinian efforts to join U.N. agencies beyond its cultural arm are “not beneficial for anybody” and will lead to cuts in funding sure to affect millions of people, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned Thursday.

In an Associated Press interview, the U.N. chief reiterated the world body’s support for a viable, independent Palestinian state - but lamented the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to join U.N. affiliates before the U.N. itself.

The Palestinians have asked the Security Council to grant them full membership in the United Nations, and a vote is tentatively set for Nov. 11. The United States, a stalwart Israeli ally, has vowed to veto the request.

Since their application in September, the Palestinians have sought to join other U.N. agencies in which the U.S. doesn’t have veto power on membership issues. A culmination of that effort came Monday, when the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization voted to welcome the Palestinians.

SYRIA

Tanks fire on Homs, defy Arab-brokered deal

BEIRUT | Syrian tanks mounted with machine guns fired on a city at the center of the country’s uprising Thursday, defying a day-old agreement between the Syrian government and the Arab League to end nearly eight months of bloodshed, activists said.

At least 12 people were killed in the tank fire and other violence in Homs, according to two main Syrian activist groups.

A crackdown on dissent and what appears to be growing sectarian bloodshed has turned Homs, Syria’s third-largest city and home to some 800,000 people, into one of the country’s deadliest areas.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

Uganda fighters attack military base in Congo

KINSHASA | A Congolese army official said Ugandan militiamen launched an overnight attack on a military base in eastern Congo in an attempt to free detained leaders.

Col. Eric Ruhorimbere said the fighters descended on a Congolese military base in Mukakira around 4 a.m. Thursday. Nine of the attackers were killed, along with two Congolese soldiers.

Col. Ruhorimbere told the Associated Press that the militiamen did not succeed in freeing those who are being held by the Congolese military.

Col. Ruhorimbere said the fighters behind Thursday’s early morning attack were from a pair of Ugandan groups known as ADF-NALU. They fought the Ugandan government in the 1980s and early ‘90s, and are said to be regrouping in Congo.

IRELAND

Ireland to close embassies to Vatican, 2 others

DUBLIN | Ireland announced Thursday it is closing its embassies to the Vatican and two other nations, but denied that its deteriorating relations with the Catholic Church played a role in its choice of cuts.

Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said Ireland is under grave financial pressure as it tries to slash spending in line with its international bailout last year.

He said a review determined that Ireland’s diplomatic posts to the Vatican, Iran and Timor Leste offered the least returns in foreign investment.

“The government believes that Ireland’s interests with the Holy See can be sufficiently represented by a nonresident ambassador,” Mr. Gilmore said, suggesting that a diplomat based in another European country would be assigned the Vatican brief, too.

In Rome, the Vatican likewise dismissed concerns that the Irish were sending another rebuke to the Catholic Church over its cover-ups of decades of child abuse in Ireland.

“What is important are the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and states, and these aren’t in question concerning Ireland,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

But Catholic leaders in Ireland expressed dismay and pleaded for an early reversal of the decision. They noted that the Vatican was among the first foreign governments to recognize Irish independence in the 1920s from Britain.

IRAQ

Cleric: U.S. seeking to ‘occupy’ Mideast

BAGHDAD | U.S. plans to station troops across the Mideast after withdrawing from Iraq amount to occupying other Islamic countries, Iraq’s most outspoken anti-American cleric said in an interview broadcast Thursday.

Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said he’s not satisfied with President Obama’s pledge to pull all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year, calling it a partial withdrawal because of the thousands of diplomats and security guards who will stay behind.

“The American occupation will stay in Iraq under different names,” Mr. al-Sadr told Al-Arabiya TV in his first interview since Mr. Obama announced the troop pullout last month.

Mr. al-Sadr noted the Pentagon’s recent reminders that it will keep an estimated 40,000 troops across the region.

PHILIPPINES

Labor deployments banned in 41 countries

MANILA | The Philippines has banned its citizens from working in 41 countries that don’t protect against labor abuse.

Nearly 10 percent of the Philippine population of 94 million work abroad.

The countries where deployment will be banned include Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said Wednesday that labor deployments to 125 other countries would continue after Philippine embassies verify their laws protect foreign workers.

A Philippine law requires Filipino workers to be deployed only to countries that provide legal protection to foreign laborers, are a party to international labor protection accords or have accords with Manila that guarantee against abuse.

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