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WORLD IN BRIEF: Tropical Storm Emily nears Dominican coast

Tropical Storm Emily nears Dominican coast

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Rain-packed Tropical Storm Emily brushed past Puerto Rico and headed Wednesday toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where more than 630,000 people are still in tents and flimsy shanties after last year's earthquake.

Forecasters said the center of the storm was expected to pass over the southwestern corner of the Dominican Republic late Wednesday and is likely to weaken somewhat in the high mountains that divide the country from Haiti. But intense rain poses a threat, said Diana Goeller, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Back-to-back bombs kill 9 in western Iraq

BAGHDAD -- Two bombs targeting police exploded in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on Wednesday, killing nine people and wounding 13, Iraqi officials said.

The bombs exploded in central Ramadi, with the second one going off just steps away from the first after police and other people gathered on the scene. Staggering the blasts is a common tactic by insurgents who hope to lure in rescuers and onlookers with the first blast to maximize the carnage with the second explosion.

Jasim al-Halbusi, head of the Anbar provincial council, said the blasts went off about 6 p.m. He said one of the dead was a policeman and three of the injured were police officers.

Syrian army shells Hama, seizes square

BEIRUT -- Syrian tanks stormed Hama under heavy shelling Wednesday, taking over a main square at the heart of the restive city and cutting off electricity, water and phone lines on the fourth day of an offensive. The U.N. Security Council added its weight to the growing international outcry, condemning the attacks on civilians.

Opposition figures and activists accused the regime of striking hard at a moment when world and media attention were distracted by the trial in Egypt of former President Hosni Mubarak.

''Hama is being collectively punished for its peaceful protests calling for the downfall of Bashar Assad,'' said Suheir Atassi, a prominent pro-democracy activist. Like many others Syria-based activists, Atassi has gone largely into hiding and spoke to The Associated Press via email.

-- From wire reports