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Reuters World News Highlights at 1845 GMT, Jan 25

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Jan 25 (Reuters) - TOP STORIES

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SEGOU/BAMAKO, Mali - French-backed government forces advanced into northern Mali towards the Islamist rebel stronghold of Gao on Friday, recapturing the town of Hombori and forcing al Qaeda-allied fighters to pull back under relentless French air strikes.

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CAIRO/ALEXANDRIA, Egypt - Protesters clashed with police across Egypt on Friday on the second anniversary of the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak, taking to the streets against the elected Islamist president who they accuse of betraying the revolution.

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AMMAN - The Syrian army has stepped up an offensive on opposition Sunni Muslim strongholds in the central city of Homs, bringing in ground forces and loyalist militia to try to secure a major road junction, opposition sources said on Friday.

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WASHINGTON - A federal appeals court on Friday invalidated President Barack Obama's "recess" appointments to a labor board last year, ruling that the move was unconstitutional and dealing a blow to Obama's strategy of bypassing Senate Republicans.

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WASHINGTON - The Pentagon has begun laying off many of its 46,000 temporary and contract employees and cutting maintenance on ships and aircraft in an effort to slow spending due to fears of new defense budget cuts, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Friday.

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WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama named longtime foreign policy aide Denis McDonough to be his next White House chief of staff on Friday.

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SEOUL - North Korea threatened to attack rival South Korea if Seoul joined a new round of tightened U.N. sanctions, as Washington unveiled more of its own economic restrictions following Pyongyang's rocket launch last month.

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MOSCOW - Russia's parliament backed a draft law on Friday banning "homosexual propaganda", in what critics see as an attempt to shore up support for President Vladimir Putin in the country's largely conservative society.

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MOGADISHU - Al Shabaab on Friday said its Christian enemies had closed its Twitter account, which the Somali militant group used to parade hostages, mock rivals and claim responsibility for bombings and assassinations.

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BEIJING - China and Japan sought to cool down tensions over a chafing territorial dispute on Friday, with Communist Party chief Xi Jinping telling an envoy from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he was committed to developing bilateral ties.

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BEIJING - China's disgraced former senior politician, Bo Xilai, will go on trial next week, a Beijing-backed Hong Kong newspaper said on Friday, in what would be the final act of a drama that has shaken the ruling Communist Party.

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FALLUJA, Iraq - Iraqi troops shot dead at least four people during clashes with Sunni Muslim protesters in Falluja on Friday in escalating unrest against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130125/reuters-world-news-highlights-at-1845-gmt-jan-25