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Around the World

The Israeli Foreign Ministry had no comment.

Also Wednesday, Moualem confirmed that Syria would host a U.S.-backed security conference on Iraq as planned later this month, despite a threat to cancel it because of a U.S. raid on Syria in October.

Somali Rebels Capture Port Near Capital

Islamist rebels captured the port of Marka, 56 miles southwest of the Somali capital, without firing a shot, raising the stakes in a two-year insurgency. The capture gives the militant al-Shabaab group a new base for its near-daily guerrilla-style attacks on the Western-backed government and its Ethiopian military allies in Mogadishu.

Sudanese President Proposes Cease-Fire

President Omar al-Bashir offered a cease-fire in Darfur and promised to disarm militias, a top rebel demand, in a new push by his government to show it is serious about ending the nearly six-year-old conflict. Darfur rebels dismissed the proposal, saying they don't trust Bashir and want to see disarmament of the feared Janjaweed militias before agreeing to a cease-fire.

Putin Praises Term-Limit Legislation

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said a bill that would extend the Russian president's term to six years was not tailored for him and would be a boost for democracy in the country. The measure could pave the way for a new 12-year presidency for Putin if he decides to seek Russia's highest office again. Lawmakers are moving to fast-track the constitutional change that President Dmitry Medvedev submitted to parliament on Tuesday.

Jerusalem Mayor Backs Home Building

The newly elected mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, said he supported government plans to build more homes for Jews in and around Arab East Jerusalem.

"I believe that because we have problems in house prices on the Jewish side of the city for many, many young Jewish couples, we must ensure that new apartments are built in Jerusalem, both east and west," Barkat said.

Palestinians, who make up 34 percent of the city's population and largely boycotted Tuesday's vote, say such construction threatens their plans to found a state.

Four Gaza Fighters Killed in Clashes

Israeli troops and Palestinian fighters fired missiles and mortar shells at each other along the Gaza-Israel border, killing four Gaza gunmen and further chipping away at a five-month-old truce. Israel has responded to the violence by clamping down on the seaside territory, home to 1.4 million Palestinians, and a U.N. aid agency warned Wednesday it would be forced to halt aid shipments this week if the closure is not eased.

Colombians Riot Over Fraud

Thousands of Colombians rioted around the country, demanding their money back after being defrauded in a series of pyramid schemes. "Dear investors, thanks for trusting us and depositing your money," read a note posted on the door of a company in the southwestern province of Cauca. "Now, for being stupid and believing in financial witchcraft, you will have to work for your money," it said, prompting depositors to storm the building.

Anti-Terrorism Legislation Moves Forward

After months of debate, Germany's lower house of parliament passed anti-terrorism legislation granting federal police the capacity to spy on computers and tap conversations. Those powers are now held only by Germany's foreign intelligence service.

Lawyer Banned From Receiving Award

The Saudi government has banned crusading defense attorney Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem from traveling abroad to receive an award for his work, Human Rights Watch said. Lahem was scheduled to receive the 2008 Human Rights Defenders Award for his fight against arbitrary and unjust rulings.

From News Services

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