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Latest developments in Arab world's unrest

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SYRIA

Critics of Syria's authoritarian regime, at a rare gathering in Damascus, call for a peaceful transition to democracy and an end to the Assad family's 40-year-old monopoly on power. Otherwise, they say, Syria's current chaos might destroy the country.

Almost 200 opposition figures and intellectuals take part in the meeting to produce "a vision about how to end tyranny," according to an organizer.

While unprecedented in its size, the public meeting at a Damascus hotel — the first since the uprising against President Bashar Assad's rule began in March — has the government's approval, leading to criticism that the regime is trying to take on a veneer of openness while continuing its bloody crackdown on dissent. Many regime opponents stay away for that reason.

The gathering comes as the regime reels under the pressure of a relentless protest movement, and authorities are clearly anxious to show they were making concessions.

Syria's state-run news agency, meanwhile, reports that a national political dialogue planned by Assad would begin July 10, and "all factions, intellectual personalities, politicians" would be invited. As Assad had said in a June 20 speech, the agenda will include constitutional amendments, including one to open the way to political parties other than the ruling Baath Party, the agency says.

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LIBYA

International judges order the arrest of Moammar Gadhafi for allegedly murdering Libyan civilians who rose up against him, as NATO warplanes pounded his Tripoli compound and world leaders stepped up calls for the Libyan leader to resign.

The International Criminal Court says Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam Gadhafi and his intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi are wanted for allegedly orchestrating the killing, injuring, arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of civilians during the first 12 days of an uprising to topple Gadhafi from power, and for trying to cover this up.

The warrants from The Hague court turn the three men into internationally wanted suspects, potentially complicating efforts to mediate an end to more than four months of intense fighting in the North African nation. The warrants will be sent to Libya, where Gadhafi remains defiantly entrenched.

Gadhafi's regime rejects the court's authority even before the decision is read, accusing it of unfairly targeting Africans while ignoring what it called crimes committed by NATO in Afghanistan, Iraq "and in Libya now."

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EGYPT

Amnesty International says Egypt's military rulers have acknowledged carrying out so-called 'virginity tests' on female protesters — the first time the army has admitted to the much criticized practice.

Amnesty says in a report that Maj. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a member of the military council ruling Egypt, justified the tests as a way to protect the army from rape allegations.

But the rights watchdog says al-Sisi vowed the military would not conduct such tests in the future.

The 'virginity test' allegations first surfaced after a March 9 rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square that turned violent when men in plainclothes attacked protesters and the army intervened forcefully to clear the square.

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TUNISIA

Tunisia's leading Islamist party announces it is pulling out of a commission that is preparing the country for its first elections after the ouster of its longtime dictator.

The pullout is the latest sign of tension between Tunisia's emerging political forces as they struggle to decide what the country will look like after decades of autocratic rule.

The commission was asked to prepare for elections for the constitutional assembly, which were postponed from July to October — a move angering the Islamist Ennahda Party.

Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi says the commission has "deviated" from its task and is trying to impose an agenda "without consultation or consensus" that could once again delay elections.

The head of the commission, respected jurist Yadh Ben Achour, says it will continue its work regardless of Ennahda's actions, but "we respect its opinion."

As one of the most organized forces in Tunisian society, the moderate Islamist party stood to benefit from earlier elections, as opposed to the more than 100 brand new political parties that haven't had time to establish support.