Fighters urged to go as supplies run short

Tribal leaders in the besieged city of Fallujah warned al-Qaeda-linked fighters to leave to avoid a military showdown, echoing a call by Iraq’s prime minister Wednesday that they give up their fight as the government pushes to regain control of mainly Sunni areas west of Baghdad.

Last week, al-Qaeda-linked gunmen seized control of Ramadi and nearby Fallujah, overrunning police stations and military posts, freeing prisoners and setting up checkpoints.

In his weekly television address, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hinted of a possible pardon for supporters of al-Qaeda’s local branch, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, if they abandon the fight.

Influential tribal leaders have been meeting to try to find a way out of the crisis and demanded that al-Qaeda members holed up in Fallujah get out of town, a provincial spokesman said. “They told them to withdraw . . . or face an attack by the tribes and the army,” he said.

Markets in the city began reopening Wednesday and some families returned to their homes, though residents complained of shortages, and the United Nations and the Red Cross cited mounting humanitarian concerns there and in nearby areas.

— Associated Press

Premier to tankers: Avoid eastern ports

Libya may sink tankers trying to load at eastern ports seized by armed protesters in an escalating confrontation over control of oil exports, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said Wednesday.

His warning came after Libya’s navy fired shots last weekend to ward off a tanker that the state-run National Oil Corp. said tried to load at one port that has been out of government control for six months.

Negotiations to end the protests have failed as eastern federalists, whose self-styled Cyrenaica government seeks more autonomy from Tripoli, have threatened to ship oil independently to world markets in defiance of Zeidan.

Protesters said Tuesday that they would guarantee security for vessels docking at the three eastern ports, inviting foreign tankers to load crude and bypass government control.

“Any country, or company, or gang” doing so would be firmly dealt with,” Zeidan said, “even if we are forced to destroy or sink them.”

— Reuters

Liquid carry-ons out; Sochi security cited

Russian aviation authorities announced Wednesday that as of now, no liquids, no matter how small the amount, can be carried on board an airplane anywhere in the country.

The ban comes as part of Olympic security measures and follows two suicide bombings in the city of Volgograd late last month that killed 34 people.

“The threat of a terror attack on airplanes using improvised explosive devices remains,” Russia’s Federal Air Transportation Agency said in a statement.

Until now, Russia followed international procedures, allowing passengers to carry onboard liquids, aerosols or gels of 3.4 ounces or less. Transportation officials said that liquid medicine and personal-care products essential to health will be allowed under the new ban but would have to be inspected and cleared.

— Kathy Lally

Talks bog down over politicians’ detention

Efforts to end South Sudan’s three-week-old conflict reached an impasse Wednesday after the rebels dismissed a government proposal to move the talks from Ethiopia to Juba and demanded the release of detained politicians.

President Salva Kiir’s government said shifting negotiations to the South Sudanese capital would allow the detainees to take part, according to Ateny Wek Ateny, Kiir’s press secretary. But the rebels’ chief negotiator, Taban Deng Gai, called Juba a “big prison” in dismissing the proposal, telling reporters in Ethi­o­pia, “We don’t want to increase our numbers in prison.”

East African mediators, as well as the United States, Britain and the European Union, have called for the 11 politicians to be freed — a key demand of rebel forces led by former vice president Riek Machar. However, Kiir told mediators that ‘this thing is not in my hands,’ ” Ateny said.

— Bloomberg News

Canada reports fatal case of H5N1 bird flu: Canadian health officials said a person who arrived in Alberta on a flight from Beijing showing symptoms of H5N1 bird flu has died, the first such case in North America. The World Health Organization says that as of mid-December, there had been 648 laboratory-
confirmed human cases of H5N1 flu, most of them in Asia, and that 384 of them have been fatal.

— From news services