Militants gained ground on Monday in a battle for a strategic Shiite enclave in northern Iraq that provides a corridor to Syria, officials and residents said. Security forces insisted they had repelled an assault on Tal Afar, a Shiite Turkman-majority town in Nineveh province, but multiple officials and a resident said militants had entered it, with one saying they were in control. "Armed groups managed to take control of Tal Afar," a Nineveh provincial government official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Resident Mohammed Khalil said militants had taken several districts but not the entire town, and added that families were fleeing to nearby Sinjar between Tal Afar and the Syrian border.
Arab foreign ministers are set to meet this week in Saudi Arabia to discuss what the Arab League on Monday called the "critical situation" in Iraq. The talks on Wednesday and Thursday come as Baghdad battles a lightning offensive by Islamic militants advancing on Baghdad after seizing parts of the north, including Iraq's second-largest city Mosul. Iraqi security forces on Saturday launched a counter-offensive, recapturing two towns north of the capital. Arab League chief Nabil Al-Arabi said the meeting in Jeddah will "study developments in the critical situation in Iraq and the steps that need to be taken to deal with it", a statement received by AFP said.
The prime minister of Iraq's Kurdistan region is in Tehran for talks with Iranian officials, media reported on Monday, amid efforts to thwart a Sunni insurgent offensive north of Baghdad. The unannounced visit by Kurdistan premier Nechirvan Barzani comes after Iranian leaders pledged support for Iraq's central government against jihadist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Iran's Mehr news agency said Barzani would meet the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, to discuss "the recent developments in Iraq".
Qatar's foreign minister has accused Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of triggering the unrest that has swept his country through his policies of "marginalisation" of the Sunni Arab minority. Militants spearheaded by powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and joined by supporters of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, have in the past week overrun a large chunk of northern and north-central Iraq, although their advance has since been slowed by a government counter-offensive. "This (unrest) is partly a result of negative factors... mainly implementing factional policies, marginalisation and exclusion," said Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah in comments carried late Sunday by QNA state news agency.
American companies can expect progress on some critical U.S. trade initiatives if the Republican Party takes control of both houses of the U.S. Congress this November. A Republican victory in the Senate may prevent the chamber's Democrats, backed by labor unions concerned about the impact of free trade on American jobs, from blocking trade legislation favored by both President Barack Obama and Republican leaders. Pollsters currently see the Republicans with a reasonable chance of winning just enough seats to gain control of the Senate in mid-term elections, which would give them their first majority in both chambers since 2006. One area that might take a hit is future funding of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the nation's export credit agency, as some conservatives see it providing “corporate welfare” through loans to foreign buyers of goods made by major U.S. companies.
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Hollywood loves stars and loves an underdog, and Democrat Wendy Davis is both. At a recent rooftop fundraiser hosted by Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg at the Bad Robot film studios near Los Angeles, she socked away more money for what could be a financially record-shattering race for Texas governor.
By Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Louisiana conservative seeking to be the No.3 Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives has the potential to be a bridge between the party's leadership and Tea Party rebels. Representative Steve Scalise is a staunch conservative who, in assessing President Obama's first 100 days in office in 2009, gave him a grade he considers far worse than an "F" for failure - an "L" for Liberal. The current whip, Kevin McCarthy, is a strong favorite to win the No.2 House leadership position in June 19 elections to replace Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Cantor is stepping down after a stunning loss last Tuesday to a Tea Party upstart in Virginia in a primary election ahead of the November midterm elections.
Three people were sentenced to death Monday over a deadly suicide car crash in Beijing's symbolic heart Tiananmen Square, state-run media said, in China's latest move against militants from restive, mainly-Muslim Xinjiang. One other person was given life in prison for the "violent terrorist attack" that killed two tourists last October, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said, citing the Intermediate People's Court in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi.
By Edward McAllister NEW YORK (Reuters) - As politicians debate the dangers of a massive increase in oil carried by rail in North America, railroads and energy producers are considering the same for natural gas. Buoyed by the unexpected success of crude by rail, companies are beginning to consider transporting natural gas as remote drilling frontiers emerge beyond the reach of pipelines, executives said. Natural gas by rail is years away and likely to face strong public resistance after a series of explosive crude-by-rail accidents. But the potentially multibillion-dollar development could connect gas-rich regions like North Dakota with urban centers, presenting an opportunity for railroads, drillers and tank car makers already cashing in from hauling oil on trains.
Mombasa (Kenya) (AFP) - At least 26 people were killed when some 50 insurgents flying black Islamist flags swept into a Kenyan coastal town firing guns in an unprecedented attack, a local government official said on Monday. "So far we have collected over 26 bodies and taken them to the mortuary, but we are still looking for more," Benson Maisori, deputy commissioner for the district, told AFP. The insurgents were reported to have been from Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab. "They were shouting in Somali and shouting 'Allahu Akbar'", he added, meaning "God is great", in Arabic.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who was re-elected Sunday, is seen as his country's best hope for a potential peace deal with Marxist rebels. With nearly all votes tallied, the center-right Santos registered 50.90 percent of the vote, compared with 45.04 percent for the more conservative Oscar Ivan Zuluaga. Santos, who governs in a coalition with some leftist parties, has led efforts to reach a peace deal the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The president served as defense minister under hawkish president Alvaro Uribe, overseeing a no-holds-barred military campaign against the FARC, who have fought the longest-running insurgency in Latin America.