Maliki visits north to mend ties with Kurds

Iraq’s prime minister on Sunday made a rare visit to the country’s self-ruled Kurdish region in the north in a bid to melt the ice between the Kurds and the ­Shiite-led central government, as a suicide attack in Baghdad killed seven people.

The visit came as authorities said a border guard was killed and two others were wounded in clashes along the frontier with Syria, the latest sign that the ­Syrian civil war risks spilling over into Iraq.

Prime Minister Nouri al-
Maliki’s decision to hold a cabinet meeting in Irbil — the first in the Kurdish regional capital since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein — was part of an initiative started last year to better understand provincial-level needs. Similar meetings have been held in other Iraqi cities.

Massoud Barzani leads the Kurds’ largely autonomous and increasingly prosperous northern region, which has multiple government ministries, its own security forces and other trappings of an independent state. It remains part of Iraq, however, and relies heavily on a share of the federal budget to meet its needs.

Maliki and Barzani later hailed the meeting as an important step but acknowledged lingering difficulties in repairing the relationship.

— Associated Press

President arrives in Qatar to talk peace

Afghan President Hamid Karzai landed in Qatar on Sunday to discuss his country’s stalled peace process and the possible opening of a Taliban office in the Persian Gulf state, officials said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Mosazai said Karzai will not hold any talks with Taliban representatives now in Qatar. The Afghan leader is scheduled to meet with Qatari officials on the sidelines of the annual U.S.-
Islamic World Forum.

Both Afghanistan and the United States support the opening of a Taliban political office in Qatar as part of an effort to rekindle talks with the insurgent group, which has been waging war against the government and the U.S.-led international coalition for nearly 12 years. But the Taliban must first renounce all ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and accept Afghanistan’s constitution.

— Associated Press

7 killed as protesters, security forces clash

Clashes between Shiite protesters and security forces in Yemen’s capital killed seven people and wounded more than 80 on Sunday, a Yemeni security official said.

In another part of the country, a military official said an airstrike, thought to be a U.S. drone attack, killed six suspected al-Qaeda militants in the eastern province of Jawf, bordering Saudi Arabia.

The Shiite protesters were demanding the release of political detainees. The official said they fired at guards while trying to storm the intelligence headquarters in Sanaa.

Also in the capital, hundreds of supporters of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh demonstrated against the release of 17 men who were detained in connection with a June 2011 explosion that injured Saleh in his palace mosque. Saleh stepped down last year after the country was roiled by months of protests.

— Associated Press

Libya’s army chief resigns after clashes in Benghazi: Libya’s army chief of staff resigned Sunday as an elite military unit took control of a base of pro-government militias after clashes killed 31 people in the eastern city of Benghazi. The violence broke out Saturday when protesters stormed the base, which belonged to Libya Shield, a group of militias aligned with the military that were tasked with helping to maintain security.

Budapest braces for swollen Danube: Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes in a region of eastern Germany where the Elbe river has flooded and burst through a dam, officials said Sunday, while swollen Danube was approaching Budapest, where soldiers and volunteers are building flood walls. At least 21 flood-related deaths have been reported in central Europe, as rivers such as the Danube, the Elbe and the Vltava have overflowed after a week of heavy rains and caused extensive damage in central and southern Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary.

Heavy rains, winds kill 27 in Sri Lanka: The death toll from strong winds and monsoon rains across Sri Lanka’s coastal areas rose to 27 on Sunday, while 29 fishermen were missing, a government spokesman said. The navy was searching for the fishermen and more than 32 boats that have been missing since heavy rains and winds hit early Saturday, said Pradeep Kodippili, a spokesman for the government’s disaster management center.

— From news services