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Reuters World News Highlights at 1615 GMT, Feb 08

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Feb 8 (Reuters) - TOP STORIES

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TUNIS - Police and mourners clashed at the mass funeral on Friday of secular opposition leader Chokri Belaid, whose assassination has plunged Tunisia deeper into political crisis.

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BAMAKO, Mali - Malian government soldiers fought mutinous paratroops in the capital Bamako on Friday in a clash that threatened to undermine a French-led offensive against Islamist rebels which has moved up close to the Algerian border.

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BRUSSELS - European Union leaders reached agreement on the first ever cut in their common budget on Friday after 24 hours of talks, seeking to placate millions at home struggling through government cutbacks and recession.

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ROME - The centre-left is on course to win Italy's election but it may have to form a coalition with outgoing premier Mario Monti, final polls before the Feb 24-25 vote showed on Friday.

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BOSTON/NEW YORK - The northeastern United States braced for a possibly historic blizzard that could drop up to three feet (nearly one meter) of snow from Friday to Saturday and bring travel to a halt.

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YEONCHEON - As North Korea prepares a third nuclear test, South Korean soldiers on the world's most heavily armed border now have orders to shoot back immediately if they come under attack, a move that risks escalating any small-scale conflict.

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GENEVA - About 5,000 refugees are fleeing Syria each day, seeking safe haven from war and its devastating impact on basic living conditions, the United Nations said on Friday.

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BREDASDORP - Hundreds of South Africans placed flowers and candles by a simple wooden cross in a building site on Friday where a dying 17-year-old gang rape victim was left to die, a murder that shocked a nation inured to sexual violence.

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DHAKA - About 100,000 people rallied in Bangladesh's capital on Friday to vent their anger at the country's feuding politicians, the fourth day of protests after an Islamist leader convicted of war crimes was spared execution.

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BEIJING - China and Japan engaged on Friday in a fresh round of invective over military movements near a disputed group of uninhabited islands, fuelling tension that for months has bedevilled relations between the Asian powers.

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PARIS - France's Louvre-Lens museum shut two galleries on Friday after a woman scribbled with a black marker pen on its star painting, Eugene Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People".

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130208/reuters-world-news-highlights-at-1615-gmt-feb-08