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The officials said the fighting was taking place west of Abyan’s provincial capital of Zinjibar, held by militants since May. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The violence in Abyan highlights the challenges facing Yemen after a year of political turmoil that has allowed al Qaeda to seize several towns in the lawless south and withstand repeated army offensives to retake them.

ISRAEL

Official: Israel alone to decide on Iran

JERUSALEM — Israel’s foreign minister said Sunday that U.S. pressure will not affect Israeli thinking on how to cope with the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

Avigdor Lieberman delivered his assessment on the eve of a key meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Obama at the White House.

Both countries believe Iran is developing the capability to produce nuclear weapons, but divisions have emerged on how to confront the threat. Israel has sent a series of signals recently that military action may be needed to stop the Iranians.

The U.S., while not ruling out the threat of force, has said that tough new Western economic sanctions imposed on Iran must be given time to work. Iran claims its program is for peaceful purposes.

LIBYA

163 bodies found in mass grave

BENGHAZI — A Libyan committee on missing persons said Sunday it had recovered the bodies of 163 people who were killed in the conflict that toppled the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

“The discovery of 163 bodies out of 400 missing from the regions of eastern Libya is an incredible achievement,” Maher Warfalli of the committee of missing persons told Agence France-Presse, without specifying when the grave was found.

Committee Chairman Omar Abdelkhalek Obeidi, who is also a forensics expert, said the bodies had been extracted from a “mass grave” in the desert town of Bin Jawad, east of Sirte, where Gadhafi was captured and killed Oct. 20.

“The bodies belong to rebels who lost their lives between February and March 2011 in Brega, Ras Lanuf, Bin Jawad and even on the outskirts of Sirte,” he said.

IRELAND

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