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Reuters World News Highlights at 1645 GMT, Jan 09

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NEW YORK - A high-speed commuter ferry crashed into a pier near Wall Street at the height of the morning rush hour on Wednesday, injuring 57 people, two critically, the New York City authorities said.

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DAMASCUS/ISTANBUL - Forty-eight Iranians freed by Syrian rebels in exchange for more than 2,000 civilian prisoners held by the Syrian government arrived in central Damascus on Wednesday, a Reuters witness reported.

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KABUL - Afghan lawmakers said on Wednesday disaster and civil war would follow if Washington pushed ahead with a suggestion to withdraw all its troops from the country after 2014.

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JAMMU, India - India denounced Pakistan on Wednesday over a firefight in the disputed territory of Kashmir in which two Indian soldiers were killed, but the nuclear-armed rivals both appeared determined to prevent the clash escalating into a full diplomatic crisis.

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WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is "determined to take action" against gun violence and is weighing possible executive orders aimed preventing further attacks like last month's shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, Vice President Joe Biden said on Wednesday.

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BAGHDAD - Iraq closed a border crossing with Jordan on Wednesday after Sunni Muslim demonstrators blocked a highway to Syria and Jordan as part of mass protests against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

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NEW DELHI - Three of the men accused of raping and murdering an Indian student in a case that has provoked widespread anger with the government and police will plead not guilty, their lawyer said on Wednesday, citing lapses in the police investigation.

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GUANGZHOU, China - When former Xinhua state news agency vice president Tuo Zhen was appointed as head of the propaganda department in Guangdong, one of China's most liberal provinces, he carried with him a reputation as a hardline leftist.

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DE DOORNS - South African police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at hundreds of striking farm workers who blocked a highway in the grape-growing Western Cape on Wednesday, the first clashes of a year likely to be marked by fractious labour relations.

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ROME - Silvio Berlusconi has little chance of destabilising a centre-left government after Italy's February election and outgoing premier Mario Monti is the most likely to become kingmaker, one of Italy's top experts on voting trends said on Wednesday.

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CAIRO/GAZA - Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi met the leaders of Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah on Wednesday in a renewed effort to help them heal their five-year-old feud, Palestinian and Egyptian officials said.

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PARIS - Germany's Roman Catholic bishops sacked a criminologist studying sexual abuse of minors by their priests on Wednesday, prompting him to accuse them of trying to censor what was to be a major report on the scandals.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130109/reuters-world-news-highlights-at-1645-gmt-jan-09