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Briefs

Kurds in Iraq seek to secede

– With large parts of Iraq in militant hands, a top Kurdish leader called on regional lawmakers Thursday to lay the groundwork for a referendum on independence, a vote that would likely spell the end of a unified Iraq.

The recent blitz by Sunni militants across much of northern and western Iraq has given the country’s 5 million Kurds – who have long agitated for independence – their best chance ever to seize disputed territory and move closer to a decades-old dream of their own state.

But the Kurds still face opposition from many in the international community, including the United States, which has no desire to see a fragmented Iraq.

Ukrainian president names new leaders

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko shook up his country’s beleaguered defense forces Thursday with new appointments to head the Defense Ministry, the general staff and a military advisory office in his presidential administration.

The appointments announced in the parliament and swiftly approved by lawmakers were aimed at reforming the armed forces that have been ravaged by inadequate funding and corruption.

As Ukrainian troops battle pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, indications also have emerged of devastating intelligence leaks that have allowed soldiers to be ambushed on missions to retake territory seized by the militants.

Gold miners remain trapped in Honduras

An official withdrew his report that eight miners had been rescued from a small, wildcat gold mine in southern Honduras, saying late Thursday that all 11 men were still trapped following a cave-in the previous day.

Rescue workers using picks and shovels cleared away rubble by hand trying to reach the miners.

Jewish leader dies

Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, a founder of the Jewish Renewal movement and a widely influential figure in contemporary Jewish thought and practice, has died in his Boulder, Colorado, home. He was 89. Schachter-Shalomi, known to his followers as Reb Zalman, died Thursday morning in his sleep after a long illness.

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