Kirkuk (Iraq) (AFP) - A roadside bomb followed by a suicide bomber detonating an explosives-rigged truck at a police checkpoint in northern Iraq killed 15 people on Monday, a local official said. The official, Shallal Abdul Baban, told AFP the blasts in Tuz Khurmatu also wounded 115 people and caused "great destruction". The police checkpoint that was targeted was near an office of President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party. Powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant claimed the Jalawla attack in a statement posted on Twitter, and said it was carried out by two suicide bombers, one Egyptian and an Iraqi Kurd.
The Hong Kong government has refused to allow same-sex couples to marry at the British consulate in the city, UK officials said Monday, prompting heavy criticism from gay and lesbian rights groups. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced last week that it would allow its overseas missions to perform same-sex marriages for Britons and their partners in countries where it is illegal under local laws. However the service, which coincides with legislation to permit same-sex marriages taking effect in the UK, was contingent on local authorities granting their approval. Hong Kong's refusal to allow the marriages came despite countries often criticised for their gay rights records including China, Russia and Azerbaijian, as well as the deeply Catholic Philippines, giving their consent.
When outgoing Afghan leader Hamid Karzai moves out of the presidential palace post-elections to take up residence next door, he will be relinquishing power but not influence, as he seeks an active public role in his "retirement" years. Karzai is due to step down in the coming weeks after Saturday's run-off election, paving the way for Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power. The elections are meant to signal a fresh start for Afghanistan after the 13-year rule of Karzai dominated by the US-led military intervention that followed the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Karzai's relations with the US have collapsed, his regime is accused of massive corruption, and the country is still beset by the Taliban insurgency as NATO troops pull out and aid money declines.
Iran's president begins a landmark trip to Turkey on Monday as the two countries try to build trade ties despite an often fraught competition for regional influence and deep differences over the Syrian war. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will meet his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, where the powerful neighbours are expected to discuss security concerns as well as trade opportunities. Iran, a Shia theocracy, is the chief backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Sunni-majority Turkey has moved from trying to encourage reform in Syria to overtly supporting the armed opposition.
Representatives from Iran and the United States meet in Geneva Monday for their first full-scale official talks in decades aimed at bridging the gaps in negotiations for a deal on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme. Abbas Araqchi, a vice foreign minister who will lead the Iranian delegation, said Sunday that the tete-a-tete with US officials was essential as the negotiations are delicately poised. The P5+1 group of permanent members of the Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany have long sought to reach a settlement over Iran's nuclear programme. The announcement on Saturday of the US-Iran meetings in Geneva came as a surprise, but appeared to confirm the need for secondary steps to close big gaps between Tehran and Washington's positions.