• Jordan's overland trade paralyzed by Iraq, Syria border woes

    Updated: Thu, Apr 30, 2015

    JABER CROSSING, Jordan (AP) — Jordan's overland trade has largely been paralyzed by recent border attacks from insurgents in neighboring Syria and Iraq — a spillover of regional turmoil threatening a close Western ally that has thus far succeeded in fending off Islamic militants. The violence has forced the closure of the only Syria-Jordan trade crossing and further disrupted already sharply diminished cargo shipments between Jordan and Iraq. Thousands of trucks sit idle, traders are scrambling for new transport routes and the government says Jordan's economy is losing tens of millions of dollars a month.

  • Near Syrian border, wounded fighters and civilians recover

    Updated: Thu, Apr 30, 2015

    KILIS, Turkey (AP) — Sitting up in bed, 16-year-old Anas Baroudi lifts up an orange blanket to show where his left foot used to be, before he lost it almost three years ago in Syria's civil war. "It's not painful," the Syrian teenager says quietly as he covers the leg again. Lying in the next bed is Hassan, 26, a rebel fighter who lost his right eye and mobility in his right leg when a tank shell struck close to him on the front lines of Aleppo. They both tease 23-year-old Khaled Qatrib, another Syrian war amputee who is sharing their room, about being a "Facebook addict," with a smartphone seemingly attached to his hand.

  • Syrian opposition, activists report chemical attack in Idlib

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Syrian activist groups on Wednesday reported another suspected chemical attack in the northwestern province of Idlib, with one group tweeting that a dozen people were "suffocating." Several Idlib-based groups said government helicopters dropped at least two barrel bombs containing chlorine on the town of Saraqeb, triggering cases of suffocation. The Syrian Network for Human Rights, which is based outside the country, tweeted that 12 people were "suffocating." The reports could not be independently verified. A call to Syria's mission to the U.N. rang unanswered Wednesday evening. The head of Syria's main opposition group in exile said he received the reports during his informal meeting with

  • Envoy: UN wants Libya political agreement by Ramadan

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations envoy on Libya said Wednesday the Security Council wants to see a political agreement on Libya before Ramadan, which begins in the middle of June, but he says he cannot be optimistic amid the country's chaos. Bernardino Leon spoke to reporters after briefing the council behind closed doors, two days after giving the latest draft agreement to parties in the oil-rich north African country. Leon said he wants to see "direct, face to face meetings as soon as possible," including on issues of security. Libya has collapsed into competing governments and multiple militias since the overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

  • Yemen rebels and allies advance in southern city of Aden

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's Shiite rebels and their allies made major advances Wednesday in the southern city of Aden, capturing parts of an upscale neighborhood in fierce combat and seizing men they accused of fighting them. The gains extended rebel control over the port city, Yemen's second largest, casting doubt over the effectiveness of a monthlong Saudi-led air campaign intended to drive them out from there and other areas they hold, including the capital, Sanaa. Security officials said the Houthi rebels, aided by military forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, had moved up the seaside road in the neighborhood of Khormaksar, taking an area stretching from the Russian Consulate to the Crater business distr

  • Israeli prime minister takes first step in forming coalition

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's prime minister has taken the first step in forming his governing coalition by signing agreements with two parties. Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party said it signed deals Wednesday night with the centrist Kulanu party and the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism. Kulanu is led by influential newcomer Moshe Kahlon, who aims to carry out economic reforms and lower the cost of living. He is expected to be Israel's next finance minister. Likud wouldn't immediately elaborate on terms of the deals. Israeli media said they include concessions for those avoiding the country's military draft for religious reasons. Netanyahu won the elections in March but negotiations with potential coalition

  • Egypt president says parliament elections to be held in 2015

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's president said that the country's delayed parliamentary elections will take place before the end of 2015, according to a newspaper interview published Wednesday. "I give my word — they will be held before the end of the year," President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told the daily newspaper El Mundo in an interview published a day before his official visit to Spain. The parliamentary vote initially was set to take place in phases beginning on March 22. It is the final phase in a transition period following the 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi by the military, led by el-Sissi at the time. He says the vote was delayed because of constitutional appeals.

  • Iran scraps cash handouts to its wealthiest to ease burden

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has scrapped the country's wealthiest citizens off a list of people receiving monthly cash handouts in a small step toward easing the burden on the budget and freeing up more government funds, an official said Wednesday. The move, which will free up about $3 million a month of government money, is the latest in Tehran's efforts to juggle cash and wean the nation off subsidies in an oil-dependent economy suffering from a steep drop in global oil prices. But it will also likely be another test of public support for moderate President Hassan Rouhani as Tehran negotiates a conclusive deal with world powers over its controversial nuclear program.

  • Saudi king recasts line of succession with eye on security

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia's King Salman redrew the line of succession on Wednesday, appointing a counterterrorism czar as crown prince and placing his own defense minister son in line for the crown — a dramatic reshuffle that reflects the kingdom's mounting security concerns and more assertive foreign policy. The move comes just three months after Salman ascended to the throne, at a time when Saudi Arabia is struggling to contain its regional rival, Iran, while fending off a growing threat from the Islamic State group. The appointments, announced in several royal decrees, thrust a new, younger generation of princes into the line of succession and map out the future of the throne for potentially decades to c

  • Iraqi Shiite cleric threatens US over budget provision

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    BAGHDAD (AP) — An influential Shiite cleric threatened Wednesday to attack U.S. interests in Iraq and abroad over a congressional provision to send arms directly to Sunni and Kurdish fighters. The proposed measure in the House Republicans' defense authorization bill for next year would distribute a quarter of the $715 million authorized to train and equip the Iraqi army outside the government's control. It's unclear if the provision will survive the months-long legislative process. "In the event of approving this bill by the U.S. Congress, we will find ourselves obliged to unfreeze the military wing and start targeting the American interests in Iraq — even abroad, which is doable," said the statement on Muqtada al-Sadr's

  • UK trial: US soldier describes chaos after Iraq explosion

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    LONDON (AP) — A U.S. soldier has testified at a British court about the carnage after an explosion caused by an improvised bomb in Iraq in 2007. The soldier was testifying at the trial of a British man accused of making the bomb that killed a fellow U.S. soldier on a road near Baghdad. Spc. Elroy Brooks said Wednesday he was one of five soldiers in the armored vehicle when the bomb exploded. The blast killed Sgt. 1st Class Randy Johnson of 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. Brooks said Johnson pleaded "Don't let me die here," moments before he died. He said the bomb ripped Johnson's torso apart. The lawyer for 38-year-old Anis Abid Sardar told the court that the defendant admits that his fingerprints were found

  • Shipping company says crew of vessel seized by Iran is safe

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    BERLIN (AP) — The operator of cargo vessel boarded by Iranian forces as it was traversing the Strait of Hormuz said Wednesday it has confirmed the crew is safe. Iran meanwhile downplayed the political significance of the seizure, saying it was taken because the company that chartered it owed a local firm money. The Marshall Islands-flagged MV Maersk Tigris was taken Wednesday to Bandar Abbas, the main port for Iran's navy, under escort by Iranian patrol boats, according to Maersk Line, the Danish shipping company that had chartered it. The incident comes at a critical time in Iran's relations with the United States and the West, as talks about its contested nuclear program continue and frictions rise as U.S.

  • Cyprus, Egypt, Greece to boost ties on combatting terrorism

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The leaders of Cyprus, Egypt and Greece agreed Wednesday to step up cooperation on combatting terrorism amid fears that worsening security conditions in neighboring countries such as Libya could threaten the region. This would involve boosting defense and security ties and "discussing relevant information" to counter terrorist threats, said Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. The three leaders made the pledge in a joint declaration during a summit in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia.

  • Iraqi official blames media for Islamic State war failures

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's interior minister summoned dozens of journalists Wednesday to partially blame them for security force setbacks amid the war against the Islamic State group, laying bare the Baghdad's Shiite-led government sensitivity to criticism. The comments by Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, in charge of Iraq's police, come after Reuters bureau chief recently left the country after threats against him by Shiite militias over a story about abuses and looting following the capture of Tikrit. Al-Ghabban also suggested blame for the collapse of Iraqi forces last summer in the initial onslaught by the extremists, who hold a third of Iraq and Syria in their self-declared caliphate, also lay at the feet of journalists.

  • 1st meeting of Cyprus' rival leaders postponed

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — A Cypriot government official says the first meeting between the country's Greek Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades and the newly elected Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci has been postponed until next week. Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said Wednesday that the postponement of the meeting, which had been tentatively set for Saturday, was not due to differences between the two leaders. Akinci, a left-wing moderate with a long track record of reaching out to Greek Cypriots, easily defeated the hard-line incumbent in Sunday's vote in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of divided Cyprus.

  • Air Arabia's Jordanian division to launch flights in May

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Middle Eastern budget airline Air Arabia says it plans to launch a new division based in Jordan starting on May 18. The carrier said Wednesday the new Air Arabia Jordan will start operations with four direct flights from the kingdom's capital, Amman. The initial destination will be Kuwait City, followed by Jiddah, Saudi Arabia; Irbil, Iraq; and Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Air Arabia is based in the United Arab Emirates city of Sharjah, near Dubai. Its Jordanian division is a rebranding of Jordan's Petra Airlines, which Air Arabia bought a 49 percent stake in earlier this year. Air Arabia launched in 2003 and now flies to more than 100 destinations.

  • Hamas silences Gaza protest calling for Palestinian unity

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Police forces of the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip suppressed a demonstration by local youth movements calling for it to mend ties with the rival Palestinian government in the West Bank. Hamas supporters took over the podium where protesters were expressing their demands Wednesday. Some Hamas units in civilian clothes beat the demonstrators and made arrests. Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, leaving the Palestinians split between two governments. The secular, Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas governs part of the West Bank. The bitter rivals agreed under last year's unity deal to form an apolitical unity government made of technocratic governmen

  • Syrian rebels battle Islamic militants near Golan Heights

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    BEIRUT (AP) — Mainstream Syrian rebels are battling Islamists suspected of links to the Islamic State group in a southern province near the Israeli-held Golan Heights, with at least 29 people killed in days of clashes, a spokesman and activists said Wednesday. The IS group is not known to have a significant presence in southern Syria. However, Isam al-Rayess, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army's Southern Front, said a group known as Jihad Units ambushed some of his fighters in the Quneitra province who were on their way to join an offensive against forces loyal to President Bashar Assad. He said the Southern Front, a rebel coalition, has long suspected the Jihad Units of being loyal to the Islamic State group.

  • Israel, New Zealand resolve diplomatic spat over new envoy

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel and New Zealand have resolved a diplomatic dispute that had prevented New Zealand's new ambassador from taking up his post for more than half a year. Israel last September prevented Ambassador Jonathan Curr from presenting his credentials after learning that he would also serve as New Zealand's envoy to the Palestinians. At the time, Israel said it had a "well-known policy" of not accrediting diplomats who are also accredited to the Palestinian Authority. New Zealand's foreign ministry announced in February that it had appointed a separate envoy to the Palestinians, effectively ending the spat. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin's office says Curr is scheduled to present his credentials on T

  • UAE crushes tons of contraband ivory in anti-poaching action

    Updated: Wed, Apr 29, 2015

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — With a rock crusher rattling and Dubai's gleaming skyscrapers in the distance, the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday pulverized a mound of contraband elephant tusks and ivory carvings confiscated in the Gulf country to send a message against poaching and ivory trafficking. The UAE is not a major destination for smuggled ivory, but it is a key crossroads for the trade because of extensive air and sea links to Africa, Asia, Europe and the Mideast. The commercial hub of Dubai is home to the Middle East's largest seaport and busiest airport. Workers used a construction digger to hoist what officials said was more than 10 metric tons, or about 11 U.S. tons, of ivory into the crusher at a landfi




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