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Somali Government Calls for End to Arms Embargo

Somalia's government has called for an end to the international arms embargo on the country so it can better fight the militant group al-Shabab.

In a statement Monday, the government said al-Shabab's union with al-Qaida, announced last week, will increase insecurity in Somalia and East Africa, and that Somalia risks becoming a base for the terrorist network.

The government said it wants an end to the U.N. embargo, which was imposed in 1992 soon after Somalia's last stable government fell and the country descended into chronic violence.

China’s Xi Warns Against U.S. Military Buildup in Asia

China's Vice President Xi Jinping is warning the United States against a military build-up in Asia, ahead of his arrival in Washington Monday for a four-day visit.

Xi, who is expected to take charge of China's ruling Communist Party later this year, made the remark in a written response to questions submitted by The Washington Post newspaper. He said Asian countries long for peace and development, and do not want to see the United States scale up military deployments and strengthen military alliances in the region.

Burmese Activist Monk Taken into Custody

Burmese authorities have detained a Buddhist monk who was recently freed from prison for leading widespread anti-government protests in 2007.

Witnesses say monk U Gambiya was taken early Friday morning from a monastery in Rangoon. Police later confirmed the detention, but declined to provide further details.

The monk's roommate told VOA's Burmese service police arrived at the Laeti monastery in the middle of the night.

Britain's Prince Harry Finishes Top in Class

Britain's Prince Harry has qualified to fly Apache attack helicopters in combat, finishing training as the best co-pilot gunner in his group.

British Defense Ministry officials said Wednesday, Prince Harry, who is known in the military as Captain Wales, was recognized as the top co-pilot gunner by members of his training group.

Prince Harry, the third in line to the British throne, trained for 18 months in Britain and in desert and mountain conditions in the United States.

Egypt PM: Aid Cutoff Threats Won't Deter NGO Case

Egypt's army-appointed prime minister says Cairo will not halt its investigation into foreign-funded pro-democracy groups despite what he called threats to cut off aid from the United States and other countries.

Kamal al-Ganzouri said Wednesday that Egypt would "apply the law" in the case against the non-governmental organizations and "will not back down because of aid or other reasons." He said Western countries "turned against" Egypt after the crackdown began.

Greek Police Clash with Striking Workers Protesting Austerity Measures

Greek police clashed Tuesday with some of the thousands of striking workers in Athens protesting the latest austerity measures the government is seeking to impose to meet the demands of the country's international creditors.

Sudan Oil Dispute Raises War Rhetoric

A deepening oil dispute between South Sudan and Sudan has raised hostility to a point where leaders of both countries have suggested there is the strong possibility of a conflict.

Last week, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, speaking on national television, said his country is closer to war than to peace with South Sudan without progress on an oil deal.

His comments followed similar remarks from South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, who has warned that fighting could erupt if Sudan does not meet the south's terms.

Dispute over pipeline transit fees

Obama Campaign Returning Funds Linked to Mexican Fugitive

U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election campaign says it is returning some $200,000 in donations made by the family of a Mexican casino owner who fled drug and fraud charges in the U.S.

The campaign announced Tuesday that it was refunding all contributions linked to Chicago brothers Carlos and Alberto Rojas Cardona after The New York Times raised questions about them.

Reports: N. Korea Developing Attack Drones using US Technology

South Korean media report that North Korea is developing unmanned attack aircraft using American technology imported from the Middle East.

The reports say the drones are based on MQM-107D Streaker target drones and are believed to have come to Pyongyang through Syria.

The Streakers can fly at 920 kilometers per hour and are commonly used for testing missiles.

The media reports said North Korea is trying to attach explosives to the drones so they can launch suicide attacks, but the attempts have not been successful.

Officials from North Korea have not commented on the reports.

US Closes Syria Embassy, Violence in Homs Continues

The United States has closed its embassy in Syria and pulled all remaining diplomats out of the country, citing worsening security. The move came as government forces intensified their rocket and mortar assault on the restive city of Homs.

The U.S. State Department said Monday that embassy functions have been suspended and that Ambassador Robert Ford and other staff have left the country. The U.S. had warned last month it would close its mission in Damascus unless Syria's government addressed security considerations, including the safety of its personnel.

US 'Deeply Concerned' About Egypt Activist Trials

The United States has expressed deep concern over Egypt's decision to put 43 people on trial over charges of "illegal funding" of pro-democracy groups.

A judicial source in Cairo said Sunday the cases of the 43 suspects, including 19 Americans, five Serbs, two Germans, three Arab nationals and an unspecified number of Egyptians, have been transferred to the Cairo criminal court. Among the 19 Americans is Sam LaHood, head of the Egypt office of the International Republican Institute and the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi Postpones Political Rally

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has postponed a political trip to the central city of Mandalay, because she could not get permission to hold a campaign rally at a local football stadium.

A spokesman for the Nobel laureate's National League for Democracy party tells VOA's Burmese service that party organizers followed instructions from elections officials for securing the stadium on Saturday. But he said local football officials, after several days of negotiations, told party organizers the stadium would be closed for government inspections.

Hundreds Rescued After Papua New Guinea Ferry Sinks

Scores of passengers are still missing after a ferry sank early Thursday off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea.

Nerae Marimahu, a spokeswoman with the Pacific nation's National Maritime Safety Authority in Port Moresby, told VOA the MV Rabaul Queen sank about 16 kilometers off Cape Fortification. She said it was not immediately clear why the ferry sank.

The maritime agency says at least 300 passengers were believed to be aboard the ferry when it sank.

Lebanese Border Town Harbors Syrian Refugees

Thousands of Syrian refugees have fled into northern Lebanon to escape the violence. Syrians live in fear despite finding a temporary safe haven as local Lebanese have lost a key point of commerce.

A checkpoint guards the one road into Wadi Khaled. Beyond that, there’s little sign of the Lebanese army. Lying on the border, this town used to be a booming frontier trading post. It’s just 20 minutes’ drive to the flashpoint Syrian city, Homs.

Heightened US-Egypt Tensions Raise Concern

Egypt's refusal to allow several American citizens to leave the country has heightened tensions between the traditional allies and has some people wondering if it heralds a more fraught, post-revolution relationship. But others in Egypt believe it may be little more than the military leaders posturing for a domestic audience.

Several Americans took refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo after being barred from leaving Egypt, raising the stakes in a confrontation concerning U.S.-backed democracy organizations and prompting questions about the future of $1.3 billion in U.S. aid.