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Mar 4, 2014

Powers to give Lebanon military, economic boost against Syria spillover

PARIS (Reuters) – France is preparing to seal a multi-billion-dollar plan to help modernize Lebanon’s armed forces as part of international efforts to stabilize a country hard hit by spillover from Syria’s civil war next door.

At a meeting in Paris on Wednesday, the International Support Group for Lebanon, which includes the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, will also muster more help for almost 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon and create a fund to mitigate the economic fallout from Syria’s conflict.

Feb 27, 2014

Morocco raises stakes in diplomatic spat with ally France

RABAT/PARIS (Reuters) – Morocco has halted judicial cooperation with France, blocking procedures from prisoner transfers to joint investigations, officials said on Thursday, in a growing dispute with its former colonial ruler over allegations of human rights abuses.

French President Francois Hollande spoke to the Moroccan king this week to try to defuse the rare row with Rabat, an ally under fire from rights groups over police abuses, press freedom and judicial independence.

Feb 26, 2014

Arab Spring will fail unless Tunisia transition succeeds: foreign minister

PARIS (Reuters) – Tunisia said on Wednesday that it needs more help from its European partners in its transition to democracy because if it fails no other country in the Arab region will succeed.

During a visit to Paris to boost economic ties and seek help to bolster security to fight Islamist militants, foreign minister Mongi Hamdi said his country had done “exemplary” work to move towards elections by the end of the year, but more support was needed.

Feb 25, 2014

France draws up Central African Republic sanctions list, includes ex-leader Bozize

PARIS (Reuters) – France has drawn up a list of eight citizens of Central African Republic, including former President Francois Bozize, on whom it believes the United Nations should impose sanctions, diplomatic sources said.

The U.N. Security Council backed an African and French intervention in December to quell sectarian conflict in Central African Republic (CAR), which began when Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the mostly Christian country.

Feb 23, 2014

France risks long stay after misjudging Central African Republic

PARIS/DAKAR (Reuters) – When France sent troops to halt violence between Christians and Muslims in Central African Republic, commanders named the mission Sangaris after a local butterfly to reflect its short life. Three months later, it is clear they badly miscalculated.

Buoyed by a swift victory in last year’s war against Islamists in Mali, France’s military predicted six months would be enough to quell sectarian conflict in Central African Republic, which began in March when Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian country.

Jan 24, 2014

Syrian opposition demands a future without Assad

GENEVA (Reuters) – Syria’s opposition leader laid out his demands for talks on ending his country’s civil war, calling for the creation of a transitional government that does not include President Bashar al-Assad.

Ahmed Jarba told reporters in Geneva, where rival sides in the Syrian conflict are on Friday due to begin several days of negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations and major world powers, that he was looking to a future without Assad.

Jan 22, 2014

Syria peace conference opens with rifts over Assad

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) – Syria’s government and its enemies came face to face for the first time on Wednesday at a one-day peace conference in Switzerland which world powers hope can at least start a process to end three years of civil war.

There was immediate evidence of sharp differences, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that President Bashar al-Assad must step down, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cautioned against outsiders meddling in Syria’s affairs.

Jan 22, 2014

Syria peace conference opens, divided over Assad

MONTREUX, Switzerland (Reuters) – Syria’s government and its enemies came face to face on Wednesday for the first time as a peace conference began in Switzerland which world powers hope can at least start a process to end three years of civil war.

There was immediate evidence of sharp differences, as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that President Bashar al-Assad must step down, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cautioned against outsiders meddling in Syria’s affairs.

Jan 17, 2014

French 15-year-olds travel to Syria for jihad: father

TOULOUSE/PARIS (Reuters) – Two French 15-year-olds have left France to join Islamist militants in the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, one of their fathers and the Toulouse prosecutor said on Friday.

“I’ve informed the Paris anti-terrorist prosecutor because the two boys made their intention clear that they would travel to Syria via Turkey,” prosecutor Michel Valet told Reuters.

Jan 12, 2014

Friends of Syria group urges opposition to attend Geneva talks

PARIS (Reuters) – The “Friends of Syria”, an alliance of mainly Western and Gulf Arab countries who oppose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, urged opposition groups on Sunday to attend this month’s peace talks, saying there was no other route to a political solution.

With 10 days to go until the first direct talks between the opposition and President Bashar al-Assad’s government – set for January 22 in Switzerland and dubbed “Geneva 2″ – Western backers have struggled to unify rebel groups.