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Obama to remove Cuba from state sponsor of terror list

Obama to remove Cuba from state sponsor of terror list, key step in normalizing ties
Julie Pace, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, the White House announced Tuesday, a key step in his bid to normalize relations between the two countries.

The terror designation has been a stain on Cuba's pride and a major stumbling block for efforts to mend ties between Washington and Havana.

Report: Iran suspends pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia amid spat

State television in Iran says Islamic Republic suspends pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia amid spat
Nasser Karimi, The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran suspended all umrah pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia on Monday amid growing diplomatic tensions between the two countries, state television reported.

Iran's Culture Ministry made the decision over alleged abuse suffered by two male Iranian pilgrims travelling through Saudi's Jeddah airport in March trying to return home, the station reported.

Turkey recalls ambassador over pope's Armenia genocide words

Turkey recalls Vatican ambassador after pope calls Armenian killings "genocide" on centenary
Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis on Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of the slaughter of Armenians by calling the massacre by Ottoman Turks "the first genocide of the 20th century" and urging the international community to recognize it as such. Turkey immediately responded by recalling its ambassador and accusing Francis of spreading hatred and "unfounded claims."

Cubans welcome historic Castro-Obama meeting, want results

Cubans welcome historic Castro-Obama meeting, want faster results on embassies, economic ties
Anne-Marie Garcia And Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press

HAVANA - Cubans hailed Saturday's historic meeting between presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama but said they want to see ties warm faster between the Cold War foes so that the lives of ordinary people on the island can improve.

Havana residents stopped in the middle of errands or family time to watch Castro and Obama shaking hands and addressing the press about their efforts to re-establish diplomatic ties.

Syria's Assad makes rare appearance at rally

Syria's president makes rare public appearance at rally of his supporters
Albert Aji,Elizabeth A. Kennedy, The Associated Press

DAMASCUS, Syria - Syrian President Bashar Assad joined thousands of his supporters Wednesday in an extremely rare public appearance, telling a pro-regime rally in the capital that the "conspiracy" against his country will fail.

Dressed more casually than usual in a jacket but no tie, the president told the cheering crowd that he wanted to draw strength from them. Security guards surrounded him as supporters waved his portrait and raised Syrian flags.

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