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BEIRUT: Saudi Arabia and Iran said on Sunday that an escalating dispute between the two countries would not affect international efforts to end the war in Syria, even as a large Syrian rebel group cast doubt on the United Nations-led peace process.

The U.N. envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said in a statement after meeting Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Tehran that Iran had assured him that the row would not upset talks set for later this month.

De Mistura is shuttling around the region to shore up support for the negotiations, which are due to start in Geneva on Jan. 25. They are part of a plan endorsed by the Security Council last month to end the five-year-war that has killed 250,000 people and created millions of refugees.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, attending an Arab League meeting on Sunday to discuss the spat between the two Gulf rivals, also said he did not expect the diplomatic row to affect peace efforts.

Tensions between the Sunni Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Muslim Iran have escalated since Saudi authorities executed Shi'ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Jan. 2, triggering outrage among Shi'ites across the Middle East. Iran backs the

NEW YORK: New York will appoint an independent monitor to review counter-terror police investigations as part of reforms designed to protect Muslims from discriminatory and blanket surveillance, officials said Thursday.

Civil liberty campaigners welcomed the changes, which settle two lawsuits, saying the move by the country's largest police force sent a powerful message at a time of rising anti-Islamic sentiment.

The lawsuits alleged that New York police stigmatized communities based solely

THE HAGUE: Dutch prosecutors said Sunday they would "seriously study" claims by citizen journalists to have identified Russian soldiers implicated in the crash of flight MH17, shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014.

The claims are made by a British-based group of "citizen investigative journalists" called Bellingcat, which specialises in trawling through data on social media and other open sources.

"We received the report just after Christmas," Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch

JAKARTA: Families of those killed in an AirAsia plane crash last year in Indonesia have demanded that the airline apologise for negligence after a probe showed faulty equipment contributed to the accident.  

Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 plunged into the Java Sea in stormy weather on Dec 28 last year during what was supposed to be a routine flight from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore.  

The crash killed 162 people.  

Relatives of some of the passengers, AirAsia officials and

NEW DELHI: A strong 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck northeast India near the country's borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh early Monday, the US Geological Survey said.

The tremor hit at 4:35 am (2305 GMT Sunday) 33 kilometres (21 miles) west-northwest of the city of Imphal, capital of Manipur state, USGS said.

In its initial assessment, USGS said "some casualties and damage are possible and the impact should be relatively localised".

India's seven northeastern states, joined to the rest of

LONDON: Smoking is bad for pets too, the University of Glasgow said Tuesday, citing an ongoing study into the effects of second-hand smoke on dogs and cats.

Research under way at the Scottish institution has found that pets living in a smoky environment have a higher risk of health problems including some animal cancers, cell damage and weight gain.

"Pet owners often do not think about the impact that smoking could have on their pets," said Clare Knottenbelt, professor of small animal

BEIJING: China's parliament passed a controversial new anti-terrorism law on Sunday that requires technology firms to hand over sensitive information such as encryption keys to the government and allows the military to venture overseas on counter-terror operations.

Chinese officials say their country faces a growing threat from militants and separatists, especially in its unruly Western region of Xinjiang, where hundreds have died in violence in the past few years.

The law has attracted deep

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