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Reuters World News Highlights 1000 GMT, March 1

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

ROME - Italy's electoral earthquake seems to have condemned the country to the thing it needs least - a short-term government and new elections in as little as six months or a year.

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WASHINGTON - The U.S. government hurtled on Friday toward making deep spending cuts that threaten to hinder the nation's economic recovery, after Republicans and Democrats failed to agree on an alternative deficit-reduction plan.

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EASTLEIGH, England - British Prime Minister David Cameron's ruling Conservative party was humiliated in an election in England on Friday after it was defeated by a scandal-ridden coalition partner and pushed into third place by an anti-EU party.

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JERUSALEM - Deadlocked talks with potential coalition partners have forced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek more time to build a new government and avert a snap election, officials said on Friday.

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HONG KONG - China appears to be pressing ahead with plans to invest in a North Korean free trade zone in a sign that its recent nuclear test has not soured its economic ties with its only major ally.

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VIENNA - Iran's negotiations with world powers over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme reached "a turning point" this week, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Thursday, suggesting a breakthrough was within reach.

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ROME - Western powers pledged aid for Syrian rebels on Thursday but stopped short of offering them weapons, disappointing opponents of President Bashar al-Assad clamouring for more arms.

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MANILA - A standoff between Malaysian security forces and armed Filipinos ended in violence on Friday, with at least two police officers killed amid conflicting reports of casualties as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak declared his patience had run out.

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VATICAN CITY - With Pope Benedict XVI now officially in retirement, Catholic cardinals from around the world begin on Friday the complex, cryptic and uncertain process of picking the next leader of the world's largest church.

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FORT MEADE - The U.S. Army private accused of providing secret documents to the WikiLeaks website pleaded guilty on Thursday to misusing classified material he felt "should become public," but denied the top charge of aiding the enemy.

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WASHINGTON - In President Barack Obama's latest act in support of gay rights, his administration on Thursday urged the U.S. Supreme Court to allow same-sex marriages to resume in California.

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NEW ORLEANS - BP Plc's investigation of its disastrous 2010 Gulf of Mexico blowout did not address the impact of cost overruns on the well, a BP executive said on Thursday, in the final day of testimony this week in the massive civil trial over the spill.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130301/reuters-world-news-highlights-1000-gmt-march-1