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US Secretary of State John Kerry Saturday held a second day of talks with Afghanistan's feuding presidential hopefuls, seeking a deal to "clean up the tally" after disputed elections. Despite back-to-back meetings on Friday with rivals Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani and other officials that stretched deep into the night, US officials said an accord was not yet on the table. The deadlock over last month's run-off vote to succeed outgoing President Hamid Karzai has plunged Afghanistan into crisis and dented US hopes of a smooth transfer of power as Washington seeks to withdraw all its troops by late 2016. Kerry met Abdullah again on Saturday for about an hour and 20 minutes before starting talks with Ghani, US officials said.
Israel pounded Gaza for a fifth day Saturday as it vowed no let-up in its air campaign to halt rocket attacks by militants which has killed more than 120 Palestinians. A defiant Hamas fired five more rockets into Israel as the Islamist movement rejected growing international calls for a halt to hostilities, insisting Israel must act first. Diplomatic efforts to stop the violence saw US President Barack Obama telephoning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Washington offering to use its relationships in the Middle East to bring about a return to calm. "No terrorist target in Gaza is immune."