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Iraq’s ‘Sunni war of liberation’

What looked like a blitz by Islamic extremists was actually a broader, long-planned sectarian counteroffensive that now threatens to trap the U.S. in the middle of a civil war.

EU to ban imports from annexed Crimea

EU foreign ministers agreed Monday to ban imports from Crimea, reiterating that the European Union would never recognise Russia's "illegal" annexation of Ukraine territory. Ministers "decided to prohibit the import into the EU of goods originating from Crimea or Sevastopol," unless the Ukraine government certified them, a statement said. The EU has steadily expanded sanctions against Russians and Ukrainians implicated in the annexation of Crimea, hitting them with asset freezes and travel bans.

Israel arrests 37 in West Bank as manhunt drags on

Israeli troops detained 37 Palestinians in the West Bank during the night as its arrest campaign entered its 11th day on Monday, with no sign of three teenagers thought kidnapped by Hamas. Since the youths disappeared from a hitchhiking stop in the southern West Bank on June 12, Israel has been rounding up hundreds of Palestinians in a bid to find them, while also dealing a crushing blow to the Islamist movement's West Bank network. "Overnight, the forces detained 37 suspects and searched 80 locations, specifically in the area north west of Hebron, Beit Awwa (southwest of Hebron) and also in (the northern city of) Jenin," an army spokeswoman said. So far, troops have arrested 361 people, among them 250 Hamas members and 57 who were freed during a 2011 prisoner swap deal to secure the release of Gilad Shalit, a soldier held in Gaza for five years by Hamas, the army said.

Al-Jazeera sentence 'chilling and draconian': Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday condemned an Egyptian court's "deeply disturbing" decision to sentence three Al-Jazeera journalists to jail terms of at least seven years. "Today's conviction is obviously a chilling and draconian sentence," Kerry told journalists during an unannounced visit to Baghdad, which came a day after he visited Egypt. "Injustices like these simply cannot stand if Egypt is to move forward in the way that President (Abdel Fattah) al-Sisi and Foreign Minister (Sameh) Shoukri told me just yesterday that they aspire to see their country advance," Kerry said, in a statement. An Egyptian court on Monday sentenced three of the network's journalists to jail terms ranging from seven to 10 years, accusing them of aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood.

U.S. top court mostly upholds Obama bid to curb carbon emissions

By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday trimmed the Obama administration’s power to curb greenhouse gases under a long-running air pollution program in a decision that means most major facilities, including power plants and refineries, will continue to be regulated. On a 7-2 vote, the court rejected an industry-backed argument that most emitting facilities should not be regulated for greenhouse gases under one particular air pollution program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "It bears mention that EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case," Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, said in a statement he read in court.

US urges China to free up currency ahead of talks

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew pressed China Monday to speed up the liberalization of the renminbi ahead of the two countries' economic conference next month. Lew told Vice Premier Wang Yang of "the need for China to move more rapidly toward a market-determined exchange rate" in a telephone discussion on the bilateral relationship, the Treasury said. The US says the renminbi is deeply undervalued and needs to float according to market forces to help right the two-way trade gap, which is deeply skewed in China's favor.

US support to Iraq will be 'intense, sustained': Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry vowed Monday that the United States would provide "intense" support to Iraq to help it battle a militant offensive. "The support will be intense, sustained, and if Iraq’s leaders take the steps needed to bring the country together it will be effective," Kerry told reporters after a day of meetings in Baghdad. Kerry made the remarks at the US embassy in Baghdad, in the heavily-fortified Green Zone, after talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other leaders from across the political and communal spectrum. A major militant offensive, led by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) but involving a raft of other Sunni groups as well, began in Iraq's main northern city Mosul on June 9.

US still won't back ban on landmines

The United States is still not ready to commit to an international treaty banning landmines which has been signed by more than 160 countries, a US official said on Monday. Parties to the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention are being urged at a conference in Mozambique to commit to ensuring no armed forces anywhere on earth use anti-personnel mines by 2025.

Germany shrugs off criticism over Siemens' failed Alstom bid

Germany's government on Monday rejected criticism it had insufficiently backed industrial giant Siemens in a bidding war for a stake in France's Alstom, which opted for US rival GE's offer instead. Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said "in principle, as we have repeatedly said, decisions about possible industrial cooperation ... are the responsibility of the enterprises involved". France said Sunday it would take a 20-percent stake in Alstom, while the engineering conglomerate has accepted General Electric's 12.35-billion-euro ($16.8 billion) offer for its energy business. The French government, which had earlier encouraged a Siemens bid, said Friday it favoured GE's bid over Siemens' joint offer with Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Clinton leads GOP field in Iowa, but Christie is inching back: poll

If the 2016 presidential election were held today, Hillary Clinton would have the edge on any of her possible Republican challengers in Iowa, a new Quinnipiac University poll finds. But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose star was dimmed considerably by the so-called Bridge-gate scandal, is inching back into the 2016 picture.

Last dangerous chemicals shipped from Syria: watchdog

The last of Syria's declared chemical weapons have been shipped from the war-torn country and are en route for destruction at sea, the world's chemical weapons watchdog said on Monday. "As we speak, the ship (carrying the last chemicals) has just left the port (of Latakia)," Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said at a press conference in The Hague. "Removing the stockpile of precursor and other chemicals has been a fundamental condition in the programme to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons programme," Uzumcu said. Syria had previously shipped out 92 percent of its stockpile of chemical weapons under the terms of a UN-backed and US-Russia brokered agreement last year.

Kerry urges political reform in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday urged Iraq's top Shiite leaders to give more government power to political opponents before a Sunni insurgency seizes more control across the country and sweeps away hopes for lasting peace.

Poland's PM stands by ministers in leaked tapes

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's prime minister defied expectations Monday that he would dismiss officials whose compromising conversations were caught on tape in a government scandal the foreign minister says was orchestrated by organized crime.

Obama seeks to expand flex-time for government workers

By Roberta Rampton and Mark Felsenthal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, as part of efforts to make the U.S. workplace more accommodating for employees with families, will on Monday direct federal agencies to step up efforts to give workers more leeway in determining their schedules. Obama, who is seeking to boost Democratic fortunes before the midterm elections in November, has been urging Congress to back legislation to make workplaces more "family friendly." The president will issue a memorandum requiring federal agency heads to expand flexible workplace policies as much as possible, the White House said in a statement. Obama will also make clear that federal workers may request a flexible work arrangement without fear it will subject them to negative consequences in the workplace, whether the request is granted or not, the White House said. The announcements are part of the White House's "summit on working families," where Obama will promote policies such as raising the minimum wage and expanding access to childcare.

Obama encouraging family-friendly work policies

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is encouraging more employers to adopt family-friendly policies by hosting a daylong summit Monday, even though the U.S. government doesn't always set the best example.

Clashes as prominent Pakistan cleric returns to lead 'revolution'

A populist Canada-based cleric returned to Pakistan on Monday to try to start what he has called a "peaceful revolution" against the government, as his supporters engaged in violent clashes with police. Tahir-ul-Qadri touched down in the eastern city of Lahore after his flight was diverted from Islamabad following violence at the capital's airport that police said left 70 of their officers injured. Qadri in January last year drew tens of thousands of people to a sit-in protest in Islamabad. His return comes at a sensitive time for the government, potentially adding to pressure on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

European stocks drop as data disappoints

European stock markets fell on Monday as traders reacted to a further drop in eurozone business activity that offset positive news for Chinese manufacturing, analysts said. London's FTSE 100 index of top companies slipped 0.27 percent to stand at 6,806.72 points approaching midday in the capital. "Weaker PMI figures from Europe have stymied any chance of an early bounce for European markets, and have cancelled out some of the good news from China, where the manufacturing PMI moved into expansion territory for the first time this year," said Alastair McCaig, market analyst at IG traders.