Reuters World News Highlights at 0500 GMT, Jan 15

TOP STORIES

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WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Monday rejected any negotiations with Republicans over raising the U.S. borrowing limit, accusing his opponents of trying to extract a ransom for not ruining the economy in the latest fiscal fight.

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BAMAKO - West African defence chiefs will on Tuesday approve plans to speed the deployment of African troops against Islamist rebels in northern Mali, with some regional soldiers seen arriving next week.

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SAO PAULO/BRASILIA - Brazil is urging Venezuela's government to hold elections as quickly as possible if President Hugo Chavez dies, senior officials told Reuters on Monday, a major intervention by Latin America's regional powerhouse that could help ensure a smoother leadership transition in Caracas.

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ROME - Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right coalition is making rapid gains ahead of next month's elections, the latest polls suggest, increasing the possibility that even if the centre-left wins as expected it may not be able to form a stable Italian government.

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WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama appears ready to gamble in the debate over gun control.

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JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a simple message as he seeks a third term in office - he is a strong man and a vote for him in parliamentary elections on Jan. 22 means Israel will be a powerful nation.

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CAIRO - A military train carrying young recruits to an army camp derailed in a Cairo suburb on Tuesday, killing 19 people and injuring 107, Egypt's Health Ministry spokesman said.

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BEIRUT - Syria's civil war is unleashing a "staggering humanitarian crisis" on the Middle East as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee violence including gang rape, an international aid agency said on Monday.

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ISLAMABAD - A populist Pakistani cleric told tens of thousands of supporters gathered in the capital for an anti-corruption rally early on Tuesday morning that they could force the government to quit within hours.

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BERLIN - Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras told German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Monday that Berlin-backed reforms being pursued by the Greek government had failed totally, driving up unemployment and poverty.

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HAVANA - Cuba's new, freer travel policy took effect on Monday and for some notable Cuban dissidents it turned out to offer greater freedom than they had expected.

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NEW DELHI - India's army chief threatened to retaliate against Pakistan for the killing of two soldiers in fighting near the border of the disputed region of Kashmir, saying he had asked his commanders there to be aggressive in the face of provocation.

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AUSTIN, Texas - His fall nearly complete, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong finally confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs in an interview on Monday with Oprah Winfrey, USA Today reported.