The United States on Monday urged Washington's traditional foe Iran to act "in a non-sectarian way" as it engages in the security crisis in neighboring Iraq. In recent years, Washington has usually demanded that Iran not meddle in the situation in Iraq, but last week's shock gains by Sunni rebels have left Baghdad appealing for outside help. "We would push Iran to address problems in a non-sectarian way," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
By Anthony Boadle and Brian Winter BRASILIA/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden heads to Brazil on Monday, hoping to do more than just watch Team USA play Ghana in the World Cup. Biden will also try to turn the page on chilly U.S. relations with President Dilma Rousseff, who was outraged by revelations last year that the National Security Agency spied on her and other Brazilian officials. Brazil's left-leaning leader told reporters she was eager to reschedule her Washington trip - but only if she gets a "strong signal that (spying) won't be repeated." That comment sent officials in Washington scrambling to figure out precisely what she's looking for. In response to the uproar over NSA spying in Brazil, Germany and elsewhere, President Barack Obama said in January that the United States would no longer spy on heads of state of allied countries.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Monday urged Jordan's King Abdullah II to reform the country's "repressive" anti-terrorism law, saying recent amendments to the legislation are "disturbing." The amendments, approved in April, criminalise "the use of information technology, the Internet or any means of publication or media, or the creation of a website, to facilitate terrorist acts or back groups that promote, support or fund terrorism." RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in his letter to the king on Monday that the changes were phrased in a "general manner that leaves the judicial authorities a great deal of discretionary power, with a resulting danger of arbitrary decisions".
By Jeff Mason RANCHO MIRAGE Calif. (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will sign an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, a White House official said on Monday, handing another victory to gay rights activists. The White House has been pressing Congress to pass legislation to ban employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and has resisted issuing an executive order in favor of pursuing a broader, legislative solution. But Obama has spent the year taking executive action on other domestic priorities where Congress has failed to make legislative headway, and activists have pressed him to do the same on gay rights.
The United Nations appealed on Monday for $27 million (20 million euros) to help hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees trapped in Syria buy food during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. "As we come up to Ramadan, we can foresee a prospect of thousands of Palestinian refugees going hungry because very simply they do not have enough money to buy food," Pierre Krahenbuhl, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), told reporters in Amman. Krahenbuhl said there were approximately 500,000 Palestinian refugees registered in Syria at the outset of the conflict. UNRWA has nine registered camps for Palestinian refugees in Syria, housing those who fled or were forced from their homes when the state of Israel was created in 1948, and their descendants.
NEW CASTLE, Colo. (AP) — Four in 10 new oil and gas wells near national forests and fragile watersheds or otherwise identified as higher pollution risks escape federal inspection, unchecked by an agency struggling to keep pace with America's drilling boom, according to an Associated Press review that shows wide state-by-state disparities in safety checks.
Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi has removed heavy artillery from hills surrounding Sanaa over fears his predecessor, to whom some elements remain loyal, is plotting a coup, an official said Monday. The move comes with the presidential guard, backed by armoured vehicles, surrounding a mosque controlled by ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh in the capital since late Saturday, an AFP correspondent reported. Saleh ruled Yemen for 33 years before being forced out in February 2012 and replaced by his long-time deputy Hadi under a UN- and Gulf-sponsored deal. "The military leadership has dismantled heavy artillery and rockets that were positioned on hills around Sanaa following information of a coup plot" by Saleh "whose loyalists continue to infiltrate the army", the army official told AFP.
Aleppo (Syria) (AFP) - Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs on opposition-held districts of the northern city of Aleppo on Monday, killing at least 31 people including several children, an NGO said. Some of the wounded were in a serious condition after the strikes on the Sukkari and Ashrafiyeh neighbourhoods, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "We were sleeping safely when the first barrel dropped around midnight," said resident Abu Mohammad. "And when people came to the rescue, a second barrel dropped, so all those people who were on the site were dead.
Natal (Brazil) (AFP) - US Vice President Joe Biden begins a four-nation trip across Latin America on Monday, starting with some World Cup action at the US-Ghana game in Brazil. Biden will fly directly to the flood-stricken city of Natal to cheer on the United States as they face the Black Stars in their first Group G clash on Monday. Biden will then fly to Brasilia, where he will meet President Dilma Rousseff and Vice President Michel Temer on Tuesday in a continuing effort to patch up relations strained by revelations of massive US spying. Rousseff cancelled a state visit to Washington last year following revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that US agencies have been spying on her country.
An Egyptian police captain was killed on Monday in a shootout on the southern outskirts of Cairo with alleged supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, the interior ministry said. Since the military ousted Morsi last July, Egypt has been rocked by near-daily violence with hundreds of police dead in militant attacks and more than 1,000 Morsi supporters killed in street clashes with security forces. The police officer was shot dead during an operation targeting five wanted members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, the ministry said. The five were "implicated in many violent acts and attacks on police cars and electricity transmission pylons", it added.
Argentine stocks plunged Monday after the US Supreme Court rejected the country's appeal against having to pay hedge fund holders of its bonds, a decision that could pressure government finances. The main index of the Buenos Aires market lost six percent shortly after opening after the Supreme Court effectively backed the hedge funds in their push for payment, despite refusing to take part in the 2005 and 2010 restructurings of the country's debt. The Merval Buenos Aires index fell more than 530 points ,or 6.6 percent, to 7,513.27. The dollar was up 0.4 percent to 11.70 pesos on the Buenos Aires black market.
Armed groups from northern Mali are ready to launch peace talks with Bamako to put an end to the instability plaguing the region, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said Monday. His comments, at a meeting of foreign ministers from six Sahel countries, came after three armed movements from northern Mali announced in Algiers that they were ready to work for peace with the central government. "The conditions are increasingly ripe for progress towards peace," Lamamara said, adding that there was a "very clear desire among the senior leaders of the movements in northern Mali to work for peace." Algeria, which has a long porous border with Mali criss-crossed by jihadist movements, is helping to mediate in the conflict affecting its southern neighbour.