IRAQ
Iran’s president uses visit to stress bonds

Outgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid a final official visit to Iraq on Thursday, seeking to emphasize the growing relations between the Shiite-led neighbors just weeks before he leaves office.

Ahmadinejad is meeting with top Iraqi officials and visiting Shiite holy sites during his two-day visit to Iraq, which is grappling with its worst outbreak of violence in half a decade.

In brief remarks after talks with Iraqi Vice President Khudair al-Khuzai, Ahmadinejad emphasized Tehran’s determination to further strengthen ties with Baghdad while linking his own country’s success to that of Iraq.

“The prosperity, progress and security of Iraq are also Iran’s prosperity, progress and security,” Ahmadinejad said before later holding talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Ahmadinejad previously flew to Iraq in 2008, the first such trip by an Iranian president since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution and the 1980s Iran-Iraq war.

— Associated Press

AFGHANISTAN
8 day laborers killed en route to U.S. base

Insurgents pulled over a minivan with eight young laborers on their way to work at a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, forced them out and then shot them dead, officials said.

The killings near Forward Operating Base Shank, a U.S. base in Logar province, were the latest in a militant campaign of intimidation against Afghans working for the government or the international coalition.

“They were eight ordinary laborers going to work at that base. They were day laborers,” said Logar deputy police chief Raeis Khan Abdul Rahimzai. “This is very hard to believe. It is an inhuman and un-Muslim act against innocent people.”

President Hamid Karzai blamed the Taliban for the killings, which he called cowardly.

— Associated Press

EGYPT
Interim president warns against chaos

Egypt’s interim president pledged Thursday to protect his country against those who seek chaos and violence in the aftermath of a popularly backed military coup, promising that justice and reconciliation will be for all.

President Adly Mansour gave his first address to the nation ahead of planned protests Friday by ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood as well as by Morsi opponents. Egypt’s military, worried by post-coup violence that already has killed more than 60 people, issued a stern warning about causing unrest.

In his eight-minute, pre-recorded message broadcast on state TV, Mansour said Egypt is going through a “decisive period” in its history in which some want to drag the country toward the “unknown” and cause chaos.

— Associated Press

Spanish aid workers freed in Somalia: Two Spanish aid workers kidnapped by Somali militants from a Kenyan refugee camp in October 2011 have been released, the aid group Doctors Without Borders said. Somali militants kidnapped Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut from the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya after shooting and wounding their Kenyan driver. The attack was the third kidnapping of Europeans in Kenya in six weeks and was one of the reasons Kenya gave for sending troops into Somalia days later.

Cambodian opposition leader returns from exile: Thousands of supporters greeted Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy as he returned from self-imposed exile Friday to spearhead his party’s election campaign against Prime Minister Hun Sen. Rainsy, the French-educated leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, has been in exile since 2009 to avoid serving 11 years in prison on charges many consider politically motivated. The 64-year-old received a royal pardon last week at the request of Hun Sen, his bitter rival whose ruling party is almost certain to maintain its ironclad grip on power in the July 28 general election.

Nigeria to pull troops from Mali: Nigeria is withdrawing some of its 1,200 troops in Mali to fight a domestic Islamic uprising, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said in his capacity as chairman of a West African summit in Nigeria’s capital. Nigerian military officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because formalities have not been completed with U.N. officials indicated that most troops would be returning home. The announcement comes 10 days before elections in Mali, which is fighting its own uprising by Islamist extremists.

Irish, Nepali peacekeepers head to Golan Heights: Ireland is to send 114 peacekeepers to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights to help monitor a decades-old truce between Israel and Syria that has been shaken by a spillover of violence from Syria’s civil war. Nepal is also transferring a company of its troops from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon to the Golan Heights, a spokesman for the Lebanon mission said this week.

— From news services