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SYRIA: Fighting precedes UN talks

Syrian forces pushed dissident troops back from the edge of Damascus in heavy fighting Monday to try to take back control of the capital's eastern doorstep ahead of UN talks over a draft resolution demanding that President Bashar Assad step aside. Several Damascus suburbs have come under the domination of anti-regime fighters. With activists reporting more than 40 civilians killed Monday, Western and Arab countries stepped up pressure on Assad's ally, Russia, to overcome its opposition to the resolution. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the British and French foreign ministers were heading to New York to push for backing of the measure Tuesday at the United Nations. But Moscow, which in October vetoed the first council attempt to condemn the crackdown, has shown little sign of budging.

NIGERIA: Death sentence for murder

The security chief of former military ruler Sani Abacha was sentenced to hang Monday for the murder of the wife of one of his main political rivals. Hamza al-Mustapha was condemned in the killing of Kudirat Abiola, wife of presidential claimant Moshood Abiola, who is widely believed to have won a 1993 poll that was annulled by President Ibrahim Babangida before Abacha took power in a coup.

HAITI: Corruption trial for Duvalier

Former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier will face trial for corruption during his 15-year rule, but not for human rights abuses, a judge ruled Monday. Carves Jean, the judge, said the ruling does not include charges for the murders, disappearances, torture and other rights abuses allegedly committed during Duvalier's rule. Duvalier, 60, would face up to five years in prison if convicted on the corruption charges. He inherited power from his father, François "Papa Doc" Duvalier in 1971 and ruled Haiti for 15 years until his overthrow in 1986. Under the father-and-son dictatorship, thousands of people were murdered, or were tortured in jails, such as the dreaded Fort Dimanche.

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