By Elvina Nawaguna WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday approved San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, clearing the way for a final vote in the full Senate. If confirmed in the post, as expected, Castro would be in position to push the Obama administration's plan to wind down mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an effort that has stalled in Congress. A graduate of Stanford University and Harvard Law School, the 39-year-old Castro became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city when elected in May 2009. He said he would seek to make sure taxpayers would not be on the hook again if another housing crisis struck, as they were when the government stepped in to rescue Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in 2008.
BAGHDAD (AP) — They were known as the Sahwa, or the Awakening Councils — Sunni militiamen who took extraordinary risks to side with U.S. troops in the fight against al-Qaida during the Iraq War. Once heralded as a pivotal step in the defeat of the bloody insurgency, the Sahwa later were pushed aside by Iraq's Shiite-led government, starved of political support and money needed to remain a viable security force.
Unidentified gunmen have killed three Iranian police on patrol in the northwest of the country near the border with Iraq, the Mehr news agency reported on Wednesday. Tuesday night's attack comes after the authorities in Shiite-ruled Iran beefed up security along the frontier in response to a Sunni militant offensive that has captured swathes of Iraqi territory. The police were killed near the village of Taze-Abad, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the border with Iraq, said Mehr. An official familiar with the attack denied the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) carried out the attack, or that the jihadist group leading the offensive in Iraq had entered Iran.
The Zimbabwe government has awarded a $1.3 billion thermal power generation project to China's Sino Hydro after another Chinese company failed to conclude the contract, a minister said on Wednesday. Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire said the tender for the expansion of the Hwange power station had been awarded initially to China Machinery and Engineering Company (CMEC). "CMEC however failed to conclude the contract within the stipulated time frame that they had agreed upon with the Zimbabwe Power Company and the government of Zimbabwe,hence,the tender was cancelled in May 2014," he said. Sino Hydro's bid for the project was the next best, Mavhaire said.
Dozens of Palestinian prisoners who had refused food for 62 days have suspended their hunger strike after reaching a deal with the Israel Prisons Service, their lawyer told AFP. The prisoners began refusing food on April 24 in protest at being held by Israel without charge or trial under a controversial procedure called administrative detention, which can be indefinitely extended for years. "The strikers, who have reached an agreement with the Israeli prison authorities, have decided to suspend their action with the approach of Ramadan," Ashraf Abu Snena said, referring to the Muslim fasting month which begins this weekend. Israel confirmed the agreement, details of which were to be made public later on Wednesday.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrived in Algiers on Wednesday for his first trip abroad since being elected in May, official media reported. The ex-army chief was welcomed on arrival by Algerian premier Abdelmalek Sellal and Senate speaker Abdelkader Bensalah, and was due to meet President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, whose chronic health problems have severely limited his movements. Algeria and Egypt both neighbour Libya, which has been gripped by deadly violence since the NATO-backed ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. Algeria called for a "peaceful transition" in Egypt after Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted by Sisi, then head of the army, in July last year.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Wednesday ruled out forming a national emergency government to confront a Sunni militant offensive that has overrun large parts of the country. "The call to form a national emergency government is a coup against the constitution and the political process," Maliki said in a televised address. "The dangerous goals of forming a national emergency government are not hidden. A recent militant offensive led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, has put pressure on Maliki from both domestic opponents and overseas, with critics alleging his policies are sectarian.
China on Wednesday dismissed as a "farce" and a "smear" a vote by a United States panel of lawmakers to rename a Washington road in front of its embassy after imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. Republican Frank Wolf from Virginia submitted the amendment to the annual State Department spending bill, instructing Secretary of State John Kerry to rename the street as "No.1, Liu Xiaobo Plaza", the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. "Some people from the United States have used so-called human rights and the Liu Xiaobo case to engage in this meaningless sensationalism," China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.