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Obama to meet with congressional leaders on Iraq on Wednesday

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said on Tuesday that President Barack Obama had invited the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives to the White House on Wednesday for a meeting on Iraq. He told reporters at the Capitol that he, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi had been invited.

GM to start taking recall compensation claims August 1

General Motors is set to begin processing compensation claims from victims of poorly designed ignitions linked to 13 deaths, GM chief executive Mary Barra said Tuesday. Barra, who returns to Congress on Wednesday for another grilling on the faulty ignition recall scandal, said in prepared testimony the US automaker was making swift progress in setting up the compensation fund. Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, the disaster response expert in charge of establishing the fund, was expected to provide the criteria for victims and compensations levels by the end of June, she said. "We also expect to begin processing claims by August 1," Barra said in testimony to be delivered to the House of Representatives oversight panel.

Ex-Kuwait PM ready to face coup, graft claims probe

Former Kuwaiti premier Sheikh Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah said Tuesday he was ready to face a probe over alleged coup plot and corruption that rocked the oil-rich Gulf state. A senior member of the ruling family who left office in November 2011 after nearly six years in office, he and former parliament speaker Jassem al-Khorafi were accused in a lawsuit filed Monday of major corruption and of plotting a coup. "Sheikh Nasser is prepared to answer all the points stated in a lawsuit with complete transparency and clarity," his lawyer, Emad al-Saif, said in a statement. The suit was filed by Sheikh Ahmad Fahad al-Sabah, another senior ruling family member.

Miss. GOP senator seeking union and black support

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Six-term Republican Sen. Thad Cochran is trying to survive an intense tea party challenge in Mississippi by reaching out to union members and black voters — two groups that traditionally support Democrats. But he risks a backlash from conservatives ready to support his opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

Congress leaders meet Obama Wednesday on Iraq

Washington (AFP) - US congressional leaders will meet President Obama Wednesday in the White House to discuss the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, aides said.

Doubts over ability of Iraqi forces to tackle militants

As Iraq's security forces press a counter-offensive against militants who have captured a swathe of territory, doubt remains over whether or not they can retake major cities. Soldiers and police retreated en masse as militants -- including the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) -- swept into Iraq's second city of Mosul a week ago, leaving vehicles and even uniforms in their wake. Their departure allowed militants to secure surrounding Nineveh province, before sweeping into neighbouring Kirkuk and Salaheddin provinces, seizing territory there and in Diyala. Iraq's army has been shaped by the United States' decision to disband the forces of now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein following the 2003 invasion.

Iraq PM dismisses senior security commanders

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki dismissed several senior security force commanders on Tuesday in the face of a week-old militant offensive that has overrun swathes of the country. Those dismissed included Staff Lieutenant General Mahdi al-Gharawi, the top commander for the northern province of Nineveh, the first to fall in the assault. A major offensive by militants, spearheaded by jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant but involving other groups, overran all of Nineveh and chunks of three more provinces in a matter of days.

China, Britain sign trade deals worth £14 bn

Britain and China signed trade deals on Tuesday worth more than £14 billion ($28 billion, 17 billion euros), during a visit to London by Premier Li Keqiang aimed at resetting economic and diplomatic ties. Links between Britain and China were strained after British Prime Minister David Cameron met exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in 2012. But Li and Cameron said they were now focused on strengthening British and Chinese economic ties after concluding deals and holding talks at Cameron's Downing Street office. The largest deal was a £12 billion agreement between British energy giant BP and Chinese state-owned peer CNOOC to supply China with 1.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas per year over 20 years from 2019.

Postcards target US politicians for tougher gun laws

Relatives of victims of mass shootings in the United States urged fellow citizens Tuesday to fire a volley of postcards at politicians to demand universal background checks for gun buyers. Everytown for Gun Safety said more than 600,000 people have already signed up to send blue "Not One More" cards to state governors as well as senators and congressmen in Washington, many of whom face re-election in November. The campaign follows a rash of highly publicized shootings in recent weeks in the United States, which in 2010 saw 31,672 gun-related deaths, of which 61.2 percent were suicides and 35 percent homicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control. "My son Chris has been dead for 26 days and there's a hole in my heart that nothing can fill," added Richard Martinez, referring to the May 23 shooting spree near the University of California in Santa Barbara that left seven dead, at an emotional press conference in Washington.

ICC demands investigation of UN Darfur mission 'manipulation'

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The ICC's chief prosecutor asked the United Nations Tuesday to investigate allegations that its Darfur mission had been covering up crimes by Sudanese forces against civilians and peacekeepers. Fatou Bensouda, who presented the UN Security Council with her latest report on the situation in the Sudanese region, spoke of allegations that the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) had "been subject to manipulation."

Iraq violence kills 21 as militants press offensive

A series of bombings in Baghdad and shelling in another Iraqi city killed 21 people on Tuesday, while police found the bodies of 18 security personnel north of the capital. The violence came during a major offensive, spearheaded by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant but involving other groups, which overran all of one province and chunks of three more in a matter of days. In the deadliest single attack, a car bomb exploded in a market in the predominantly-Shiite Muslim area of north Baghdad, killing at least 11 people and wounding more than 20, security and medical officials said. In Fallujah, a city west of Baghdad that has been held by anti-government fighters for more than five months, shelling killed four people and wounded three, Dr Ahmed Shami said.

Obama’s Fave Think Tank Says: Bomb Iraq

As the White House debates whether to strike ISIS inside Iraq, a Washington think tank deeply connected to the Obama administration is recommending that the United States start getting ready now for U.S. airstrikes.

France drops corruption probe into son of Senegal's ex-leader

French prosecutors have dropped a corruption investigation into the flamboyant son of former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, his lawyers said Tuesday, weeks before he stands trial in his own country. Karim Wade is suspected of having corruptly acquired a multi-million-dollar fortune while his father was in power and is due to be tried in Senegal next month. Senegalese authorities had also lodged an official complaint in France in 2012 in the belief that part of Wade's alleged $242 million (179 million euro) fortune may have been invested in the country. French prosecutors dropped their probe for lack of sufficient proof, his lawyers said.

18 Iraq security personnel found dead

Baghdad (AFP) - Iraqi police discovered the bodies of 18 security forces members near a city north of Baghdad on Tuesday, police and a doctor said.

Car bomb kills seven in Shiite area of Baghdad

Baghdad (AFP) - A car bomb in a market in the predominantly Shiite north Baghdad area of Sadr City killed at least seven people Tuesday evening, security and medical officials said.

Race against the clock for Iran nuclear talks

Negotiators from Iran and six world powers sought Tuesday to overcome major differences and hammer out the text of a momentous nuclear deal just five weeks before a deadline. This hugely complex accord would see the Islamic republic scale down its nuclear programme to ease concerns that it wants atomic weapons -- something Iran has long denied. In return Iran is demanding the lifting of all UN and Western sanctions that are hitting its vital oil exports, clogging up its financial system and causing major economic problems.

The US Politicians Kissing Up to Russia

Washington’s celebration of U.S.-Russian relations quickly turned into a pity party for the Kremlin’s die-hard American apologists.

Miami exiles pressure U.S. to loosen policy on Cuba

By David Adams MIAMI (Reuters) - Cuban exile Joe Arriola at one time would never have dreamed of returning to his homeland while it was under communist rule. But after 53 years in the United States, the former manager of the city of Miami swallowed his pride and decided he had waited long enough. Arriola, 67, said a week-long trip to the island last year had opened his eyes to what he now believes is a failed U.S. policy of trying to isolate Cuba. "The number one weapon we have is capitalism and we are not using it," he said over breakfast at the Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables, a bastion of older, conservative-minded exiles in Miami-Dade County.

London FTSE 100 closes higher

London's stock market closed higher on Tuesday as investors awaited this week's US Federal Reserve policy meeting, while fears that violence in Iraq could disrupt energy supplies still weighed on sentiment. The benchmark FTSE 100 index rose 0.18 percent to 6,766.77 points. The "focus will increasingly... shift away from events unfolding in Iraq and the Ukraine to tomorrow's FOMC meeting," said analyst Markus Huber at broker Peregrine & Black. The Federal Reserve should keep monetary policy unchanged in a two-day meeting, but analysts will looks for any hint on changes to the trajectory for interest rates.