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World Briefs: Abbas pushes forward for change in U.N. status

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CAIRO — The Palestinian Authority plans to present its bid to upgrade its status at the United Nations next week, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas told Arab foreign ministers meeting earlier this month in the Egyptian capital.

"It has been agreed that the request will be present on Nov. 29," he said, after meeting with Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi.

President Obama has told Mr. Abbas that the United States opposes the initiative, and Israeli officials have threatened punitive measures if the Palestinians go ahead with the bid.

"We don't want any confrontations with the United States or Israel. If we could start a dialogue or negotiations the day after the vote, we will," the Palestinian leader said at the Arab League meeting Nov. 12.

"We know we are a country under occupation, but we want our land which was occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem. Israel says Palestinian lands are disputed and open to negotiation and is hurrying to build settlements, covering Jerusalem with settlements," he said.

The Palestinians are seeking to raise their U.N. status from an "entity" to a nonmember observer state, making it equal to the Vatican.

They say that such an upgraded status would represent U.N. acknowledgment of Palestine as an independent nation.

FRANCE

Hollande approves envoy from Syrian opposition

PARIS — President Francois Hollande and the new Syrian opposition leader have announced plans to install a new ambassador to represent war-torn Syria in France.

The move came after talks Saturday at the presidential palace in Paris between Mr. Hollande and Moaz al-Khatib, head of the newly formed Syrian opposition coalition. France is the only Western country to have formally recognized the group as the representative of the Syrian people.

The new ambassador is Mounzir Makhous, an academic.

SOMALIA

Parliament approves smaller, 10-member Cabinet

MOGADISHU — Somalia's parliament has approved a smaller, 10-member Cabinet in a vote that serves as an important victory for the country's new prime minister.

Mohmed Sheik Osman Jawari, the parliament speaker, said 219 parliamentarians endorsed the Cabinet in a vote last week. Three voted against and three abstained. The Cabinet, formed by Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon, is expected to be sworn in this week.

The naming of the smaller Cabinet is the latest change undergone by the government this year. A new interim constitution has been passed, a new parliament was seated and a new president was voted in.

The new government must continue to expand its presence in a country worn down by 20 years of conflict. Al-Shabab terrorists continue to attack targets in the capital, Mogadishu.

COLOMBIA

Peace talks with rebels start Monday in Cuba

BOGOTA — The Colombian government and a Marxist guerrilla group hope to begin full-fledged peace talks Monday, after delaying the process to discuss including civilian groups.

The negotiations between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, were to have begun Thursday.

The Colombian president's office announced last week that the talks will start Monday in Cuba, and that they will begin by discussing an agenda for the talks to end a 48-year civil war.

Negotiators will be taking up a five-point agenda consisting of land issues, political participation, drug trafficking, disarmament and victims.

A role in the negotiations for civil society groups had been ruled out until now, and it is unclear how they would figure in the process.

Launched at a symbolic meeting in Norway last month, the negotiations are the first in a decade between the government and FARC aimed at ending Latin America's longest-running insurgency. Three previous attempts to make peace failed.

No cease-fire has been declared as part of the negotiations, and the hostilities have continued to claim lives.

FARC has some 9,200 fighters under arms, according to Colombian defense ministry estimates.

The group, which was founded in 1964, has been dealt a series of setbacks in recent years that have resulted in the death or capture of key leaders and left it much diminished from its peak strength.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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