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THE EMIRATES: 'Rape' sentence dropped

With her passport back in hand, a Norwegian woman at the center of a Dubai rape claim dispute said Monday that her 16-month sentence for having sex outside marriage had been dropped in the latest clash between the city's Islamic-based legal codes and its international branding as a Western-friendly haven. Dubai authorities hope the pardon of the 24-year-old woman will allow them to sidestep a potentially embarrassing blow. "I am overjoyed," Marte Deborah Dalelv told The Associated Press after she was cleared by the order of Dubai's ruler.


ISRAEL: Peace referendum promised

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday he is fast-tracking legislation that would allow him to put any peace deal with the Palestinians to a national referendum, an apparent attempt to silence hard-liners in his party and in the coalition government. Netanyahu spoke three days after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said progress had been made toward a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, stalled for five years. Kerry has invited Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to Washington for preliminary talks, though wide gaps remain on the framework of the actual negotiations. Polls suggest a majority of Israelis support the establishing of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but many groups are vehemently opposed.


BELGIUM: Hezbollah makes terror list

The European Union placed the military wing of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militant group and political party, on its terror list Monday in a major policy change toward the Middle East. The EU's 28 foreign ministers reached the decision unanimously, swiftly swaying the last nations that had expressed opposition by committing to continued political dialogue with Beirut. The action came after prolonged pressure from the United States, the Netherlands and Israel, which consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization. Hezbollah called the EU decision "hostile and unjust and not based on justification or evidence."

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