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Reuters World News Highlights at 1700 GMT, Feb 04

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Feb 4 (Reuters) - TOP STORIES

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THE HAGUE - Hundreds of soccer matches at club and national team level have been fixed in a global betting scam run from Singapore, police said on Monday, in a blow to the image of the world's most popular sport and a multi-billion dollar industry.

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KIDAL, Mali - Tuareg rebels in northern Mali said on Monday they had captured two senior Islamist insurgents fleeing French air strikes toward the Algerian border, and France pressed ahead with its bombing campaign against al Qaeda's Saharan desert camps.

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BEIRUT - Syrian opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib urged President Bashar al-Assad on Monday to respond to his initiative for dialogue, saying it was aimed at ending the bloodshed and helping "the regime leave peacefully".

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WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Monday takes his gun control campaign to Minneapolis, where efforts have helped curtail violence in a state that is also home to an active hunting culture.

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BERLIN - Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday he saw U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden's offer this weekend of bilateral dialogue between their two countries as a sign of a change in approach to Tehran by Washington.

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CAIRO - Egypt's main opposition alliance has got itself into a muddle by appearing to endorse a call for the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, then backing away.

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LEICESTER, England - A skeleton with a cleaved skull and a curved spine entombed under a car park is that of Richard III, archaeologists said on Monday, solving a 500-year-old mystery about the final resting place of the last English king to die in battle.

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BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber attacked a government-backed militia in Iraq on Monday, killing at least 22 people in an apparent attempt by Sunni insurgents to provoke unrest against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

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VIENNA - Iran could be able to make thousands of next-generation uranium enrichment machines, according to a former chief U.N. inspector, adding credibility to Tehran's claims of technical advances in its disputed nuclear programme.

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ABIDJAN - A French-owned Luxembourg-flagged tanker with 17 crew members that went missing off Ivory Coast at the weekend is believed to have been hijacked by Nigerian pirates, the International Maritime Bureau said on Monday.

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ROME - Silvio Berlusconi's rivals lampooned him as a snake charmer and a TV huckster selling pots and pans on Monday after he promised sweeping tax cuts if his centre right wins Italy's election this month.

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YANGON - Myanmar's government held talks with top commanders of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) rebel group in China on Monday to try to rescue a faltering peace process and end one of the country's bloodiest ethnic conflicts.

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TOKYO/SHANGHAI - Two Japanese F-15s scramble as a Chinese plane nears the disputed islands: one in the lead, the other providing cover.

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DALLAS - Boy Scouts of America board members will meet this week to debate ending a controversial national ban on gay membership, prompting groups both for and against the move to converge on its Texas headquarters for demonstrations.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130204/reuters-world-news-highlights-at-1700-gmt-feb-04