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UNICEF launches record $2.2bn crisis appeal

UNICEF launched a record $2.2 billion aid appeal Friday to help tens of millions of children around the world, saying the lion's share was to deal with the Syria war. "Children are always the most vulnerable group in emergencies, facing a high risk of violence, exploitation, disease and neglect," said Ted Chaiban, head of emergency operations at the UN children's agency. The appeal outstripped the call for $1.4 billion made by UNICEF at the beginning of 2013, and which was revised to $1.7 billion in October.

11 dead as Libya military plane crashes in Tunisia

A Libyan army medical plane crashed south of Tunis early on Friday, killing all 11 people on board, Tunisian emergency services said. "The plane crashed at 1:30 am (0030 GMT)... with 11 people on board -- three doctors, two patients and six crew members," spokesman Mongi El Kadhi said. He said there were no survivors from the accident in the Grombalia area, 40 kilometres (25 miles) south of the capital. str-alf/kir

Saudi jails 7 up to 20 years over Shiite protests

A Saudi court has jailed seven protesters for up to 20 years for joining a demonstration and chanting anti-government slogans in a mostly Shiite region of the kingdom, local media reported Thursday. The Eastern Province, where Qatif is located, was the site of frequent Shiite-led protests between February 2011 and August 2012. A specialised court in Riyadh on Wednesday sentenced the young defendants to between six and 20 years in prison and imposed travel bans of the same duration as their jail terms.

Saudi jails 7 up to 20 years over Shiite protests

A Saudi court has jailed seven protesters for up to 20 years for joining a demonstration and chanting anti-government slogans in a mostly Shiite region of the kingdom, local media reported Thursday. The Eastern Province, where Qatif is located, was the site of frequent Shiite-led protests between February 2011 and August 2012. A specialised court in Riyadh on Wednesday sentenced the young defendants to between six and 20 years in prison and imposed travel bans of the same duration as their jail terms.

Lebanon looks to Kuwait for Saudi-Iranian rapprochement

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri urged Kuwait to keep trying to build bridges between Iran and Saudi Arabia to encourage a rapprochement between two regional heavyweights backing opposite sides in Syria's civil war.

Malaysia tops survey of 'halal holidays' for Muslims

Malaysia is the world's friendliest destination for Muslim travellers, according to a survey released Tuesday, but Japan has shown most improvement as it ramps up efforts to cash in on a growing market. Malaysia was followed by the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia in this year's rankings for "halal" friendly holiday destinations released by Singapore-based Muslim travel specialist Crescentrating.

Malaysia tops survey of 'halal holidays' for Muslims

Malaysia is the world's friendliest destination for Muslim travellers, according to a survey released Tuesday, but Japan has shown most improvement as it ramps up efforts to cash in on a growing market. Malaysia was followed by the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia in this year's rankings for "halal" friendly holiday destinations released by Singapore-based Muslim travel specialist Crescentrating.

Free Syrian Army sacks chief, appoints replacement

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis AMMAN (Reuters) - The Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) has sacked its leader after he fell out with the Saudi-supported head of the moderate opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, opposition sources said on Monday. General Selim Idriss, whose relations with Saudi Arabia deteriorated after he opened channels with Qatar, was replaced by Brigadier General Abdelilah al-Bashir, head of FSA operations in Qunaitera province bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, the sources said.

Islamist threat at home forces Saudi rethink on Syria

By Angus McDowall RIYADH (Reuters) - After serving for years as the main conduit for weapons and cash to rebels battling Syria's Bashar al-Assad, Saudi Arabia is shifting its policy to contain the spread of Islamist militancy at home, diplomats and figures close to the government say. Riyadh is concerned that radicalism among rebels in Syria will boost al Qaeda at home in Saudi Arabia, which suffered a blowback last decade when fighters from the network of Osama bin Laden - himself a Saudi - returned from jihad in Afghanistan.

Saudi Arabia to jail citizens who fight abroad

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia will imprison for three to 20 years any citizen who fights in conflicts abroad, according to a royal decree released through state media on Monday. The decree also said Saudis who join or endorse groups it classifies as terrorist organizations, whether inside or outside the country, would face prison sentences of between five and 30 years.
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