Top news: After meeting with President Bashar al-Assad and other top Syrian officials in Damascus, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called for the establishment of a transitional government in accordance with the Geneva communiqué, a plan that was endorsed by world leaders in June. But little is known about the actual substance of Brahimi's negotiations with Assad and Russia's foreign ministry denied the existence of a specific plan to form a transitional government. Brahimi is headed to Moscow this week to meet with Russian officials as part of his diplomatic push to end the 21-month civil war.
At least 35 people were killed Thursday as fighting continued near the international airport in Aleppo. The violence comes a day after Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Jassem al-Shallal, the chief of the military police, became the highest-ranking police official to defect since the war began. Ironically, Shallal had been in charge of preventing military defections. In a video broadcast by Al Arabiya, the general said he abandoned his position because the Syrian military had become little more than "a gang for killing and destruction."
Iraq: Tens of thousands of Sunni protesters blocked trade routes to Syria and Jordan in the fourth day of protests against Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The protests erupted last week after the military arrested 10 bodyguards assigned to Sunni Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi.
- The Central African Republic called on French soldiers stationed in Bangui to intervene as rebels advanced toward the capital city.
- Former South African President Nelson Mandela was discharged from hospital after receiving treatment for a lung infection.
- Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir said Wednesday that he is prepared to meet with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir to attempt to restart oil transportation.
- Authorities in the United Arab Emirates arrested a militant cell that was planning attacks in multiple countries.
- Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby will visit Ramallah on Saturday with a delegation of high-ranking Arab officials to discuss aid for the Palestinian Authority.
- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy took responsibility for "mistakes" that were made prior to the ratification of the new constitution, but called for unity going forward.
- China opened the world's longest high-speed railway, linking Beijing and Guangzhou.
- Following a spate of self-immolations, Chinese authorities confiscated televisions and dismantled satellite equipment in a heavily Tibetan part of western China.
- A suicide bomber killed three Afghans on Wednesday as he tried to enter Forward Operating Base Chapman, located outside Khost in eastern Afghanistan.
- Russia's parliament passed a bill banning the adoption of Russian children by Americans.
- Gunmen in North Ossetia killed Islamic cleric Ibragim Dudarov, Russian authorities said Thursday.
- Spanish authorities arrested 35 people and confiscated 11 tons of hashish in a major drug bust.
- Fighting between rival drug cartels left 9 people dead in the western Mexican state of Sinaloa.
- Nicaraguan authorities evacuated roughly 400 people living near the San Cristobal volcano after it began spewing ash on Tuesday.
- Uruguay's Senate postponed a vote on the Marriage Equality Law, a bill that would make Uruguay the second Latin American country to legalize gay marriage.