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WORLD IN BRIEF: Asteroid to zip past Earth

PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA says a newly discovered asteroid will have a close encounter with Earth on Monday, but there's no need to worry.

The space agency's Near-Earth Object Program Office says the small space rock -- dubbed 2011 MD -- will pass 7,500 miles above Earth's surface over the southern Atlantic Ocean at about 6:30 a.m. PDT.

Though it will come close, it's not a distance record holder. Earlier this year, a tiny asteroid flew by even closer -- within 3,400 miles.

The latest asteroid measures 33 feet long and was discovered this week by telescopes in New Mexico.

PETA to pope: Say no to leather in popemobile

ROME -- An animal rights group has urged Pope Benedict XVI to ''truly go green'' and insist that the next popemobile is made without leather.

PETA said it has written to the pope with the request following the Vatican's confirmation Wednesday that Germany's Mercedes-Benz auto company is making a study of a hybrid, energy-saving popemobile. The car would replace the current Mercedes vehicle used when the pope travels abroad.

PETA spokeswoman Ashley Gonzalez said leather production is not only ''toxic to the environment, it's also hell for cows.''

Syrians march demanding Assad's ouster

BEIRUT -- Defying government guns, thousands of Syrian protesters poured down city streets and a main highway Friday to press demands for President Bashar Assad's ouster. Security forces opened fire, killing at least 15 people, including two children, activists said.

''Our revolution is strong! Assad has lost legitimacy!'' a YouTube video showed protesters chanting in Zabadani, a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian capital.

Syria's streets have become the stage for a test of endurance between a 3-month-old pro-democracy movement, bloodied but resilient, and an iron-fisted but embattled regime. The latest round of protests and killings came as international pressure mounted on Assad.

''We will not stand by while the Syrian regime uses violent repression to silence its own people,'' British Foreign Secretary William Hague said after the European Union expanded sanctions -- asset freezes and travel bans -- to more members of the Syrian leadership.