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Islamic State steps up counter-attacks as fighting edges closer to Mosul

By Maher Chmaytelli and Stephen Kalin BAGHDAD/BARTELLA, Iraq (Reuters) - Islamic State expanded its attacks on Monday against the army and Kurdish forces across Iraq, trying to relieve pressure on the militant group's defenses around Mosul, its last major urban stronghold in the country. About 80 Islamic State-held villages and towns have been retaken in the first week of the offensive, bringing Iraqi and Kurdish forces closer to the edge of the city itself - where the battle will be hardest fought. The Mosul campaign, which aims to crush the Iraqi half of Islamic State's declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, may become the biggest battle yet in the 13 years of turmoil triggered by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and could require a massive humanitarian relief operation.

Exclusive: Philippines police plan new phase in drugs war - sources

By Tom Allard and Clare Baldwin MANILA (Reuters) - Signaling a shift in strategy in its blood-soaked war against drugs, Philippines police aim to reduce the killing of suspects and put more resources into arresting prominent people tied to the trade, two sources with knowledge of the matter said. Project Double Barrel Alpha will put a stronger focus on arresting politicians, military, police, government officials and celebrities allegedly involved in narcotics, the sources said. The new approach will be outlined on Tuesday at a meeting of police chiefs from each of the Philippines' 18 regions at Camp Crame, the police headquarters north of the capital Manila, Philippines National Police spokesman Dionardo Carlos confirmed to Reuters.

France clears 'Jungle' migrant camp in Calais, children in limbo

By Matthias Blamont CALAIS, France (Reuters) - France began clearing the sprawling "Jungle" camp on Monday as many migrants who have camped for months or years among sand dunes near Calais gave up on their dreams of reaching Britain, a tantalizingly short sea crossing away. Following sporadic outbreaks of unrest overnight, the migrants chose instead with calm resignation to be relocated in France while their asylum requests are considered. By the evening, 2,318 camp residents - more than a third of the total - had left the squalid shanty-town outside the northern port by bus and were being rehoused at reception centers across the country, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said.

Venezuela, opposition announce dialogue as protests brew

By Diego Orť and Anggy Polanco CARACAS/SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela's socialist government and opposition on Monday announced surprise talks for the weekend to deal with a worsening political standoff since the suspension of a referendum drive to remove unpopular President Nicolas Maduro. "At last we are installing a dialogue between the opposition and the legitimate government," Maduro said from Rome, after a meeting with Pope Francis who urged him to alleviate Venezuelans' suffering during a brutal economic crisis. The opposition says Maduro is an inept autocrat who must leave office before the crisis worsens while the former bus driver and union leader vows not to be pushed out by what he calls a power-hungry elite seeking a coup.

At odds over Brexit, UK nations hold 'frustrating' talks on common stance

By Kylie MacLellan LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May tried to persuade the leaders of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on Monday to work with her government on a common Brexit negotiating position, but the Scottish leader dismissed the meeting as "deeply frustrating". May says that while the devolved governments of the UK's three smaller nations should give their views on what the terms of Brexit should be, they must not undermine the UK's strategy by seeking separate settlements with the EU. "I don't know what the UK's negotiating position is because they can't tell us," Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said after talks at May's Downing Street office.

Kerry speaks to Philippines counterpart after separation comment by Duterte

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to his Philippines counterpart over the weekend, emphasizing strong and stable ties between the allies after comments by the Philippines president raised questions about bilateral relations, the State Department said on Monday. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Kerry expressed concern about the tone of remarks by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has sharply criticized President Barack Obama and talked about a separation from the United States.

Four killed in anti-U.N. unrest in Central African Republic: U.N.

Four civilians were killed and 14 other people injured in Central African Republic on Monday when U.N. peacekeepers exchanged fire with armed men during a protest against the U.N. military presence, the United Nations said. The clashes occurred as hundreds of protesters gathered to call for troops from the U.N. mission (MINUSCA) to leave the country. A Reuters witness saw protesters, carrying anti-U.N. posters, throwing stones and shouting at the troops who responded with warning shots.

Manny Pacquiao takes a break from politics for boxing

LAS VEGAS (AP) ? Up until last week, Manny Pacquiao was concentrating on trying to get the death penalty restored in the Philippines.

Gunmen attack police academy in Pakistani city of Quetta

By Gul Yusufzai QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Gunmen stormed a Pakistani police training academy in the southwestern city of Quetta late on Monday night, wounding up to a dozen recruits, officials said. Some 200 trainees are stationed at the facility, officials said. "Around five terrorists entered police training center and they have taken police recruits (at) gunpoint," a senior security official in Quetta said, on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Venezuela rivals agree to crisis talks

Venezuela's government and opposition agreed Monday to launch talks in the hope of settling the political crisis in a volatile country stricken by food shortages. The national dialogue aims to calm tensions after the opposition accused socialist President Nicolas Maduro of trampling on democracy by blocking their bid for a vote on removing him. With the opposition vowing mass street protests as analysts warned of an increased risk of violent unrest, the Vatican stepped in on Monday.

Kerry voices concern to Lavrov about new Aleppo fighting

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced concern to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday about renewed fighting and air strikes in the Syrian city of Aleppo after a break of several days, the State Department said. Lavrov and Kerry discussed the situation in Syria in a phone call and agreed that experts from several countries meeting in Geneva would continue searching for ways to resolve the Aleppo crisis, the State Department and Russia's Foreign Ministry said.

South African opposition says ICC withdrawal is illegal

JOHANNESBURG (AP) ? South Africa's main opposition party on Monday tried to block a government plan to withdraw from the International Criminal Court, saying the move is illegal and that the country's top court should intervene.

ICC urges dialogue with African nations set to quit

The International Criminal Court on Monday urged member states to seek a consensus with critical African nations, while stressing that South Africa and Burundi's announced departures would not take place for at least year. "Today more than ever, there is a huge need for universal justice," said Sidiki Kaba, president of the assembly of state parties to the ICC founding treaty, evoking "the tragedies which are happening in front of our eyes". Kaba, also Senegal's justice minister, said it was necessary "to engage in dialogue with the nations which want to leave the ICC.

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