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IRAQ: 150 dead in three days' action

Clashes spread to a key northern city and gunmen took over a town elsewhere on Thursday, raising the death toll from three days of violence to more than 150 people as a wave of Sunni unrest intensified. Police said 31 militants and 10 police were killed Thursday in the fighting in Mosul. The turmoil is aggravating an already sour political situation between the Shia-led government and Sunnis, who accuse Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's regime of neglect and trying to disenfranchise their Muslim sect. Al-Maliki appeared on national television appealing for calm amid fears the country is facing a return to full-scale sectarian fighting more than a year after U.S. troops withdrew.

UNITED NATIONS: Peacekeepers OKd for Mali

The Security Council unanimously approved a new UN peacekeeping force for Mali on Thursday to help restore democracy and stabilize the northern half of the country, which was controlled by Islamist jihadists until a France-led military operation ousted them three months ago. The resolution authorizes the deployment of a UN force of 11,200 military personnel and 1,440 international police. The peacekeepers are not authorized to undertake offensive military operations or chase terrorists in the desert, roles that will continue to be carried out by France under an agreement with Mali. The UN force would take over from a 6,000-member African-led mission now in Mali on July 1.

TURKEY: Kurds set withdrawal plan

Kurdish rebels will start withdrawing thousands of guerrilla fighters from Turkey on May 8 and retreat across the border to northern Iraq, a rebel commander said Thursday, in a milestone toward ending a nearly three-decade-old insurgency that has cost tens of thousands of lives. In a news conference in northern Iraq's Qandil mountains, commander Murat Karayilan said the extraction would be gradual, but warned it would stop should the rebels be attacked as they leave Turkey. He also outlined for the first time "obligations" the Turkish government needs to fulfill for peace, including enacting a new constitution, dismantling special security units established to fight the rebels and declaring an amnesty for all imprisoned guerrillas.

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