Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

WORLD [Derived Headline]

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

WORLD [Derived Headline]

Article excerpt

AL-QAIDA LEADER DECRIES SYRIA INFIGHTING

BEIRUT - The leader of al-Qaida called on rival Islamic groups in Syria to end their infighting and focus on battling President Bashar Assad's forces in a recording released today.

The call by Ayman al-Zawahri came as activists said that fighting between the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and an array of other Islamic militant groups intensified in northern Syria.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "Islamic State" fighters fully captured the northern town of Manbij today after days of fighting.

The Observatory said that 1,395 people, mostly rebel fighters, have been killed since the infighting began Jan. 3, the worst clash among opposition groups since Syria's crisis began in March 2011.

Mr. al-Zawahri said the internal fighting "between the holy warriors of Islam has bloodied our hearts" and that it should stop immediately. He called on Islamic groups in Syria to set up an Islamic court that would mediate and resolve their differences.

He said Islamic fighters should focus on "bringing down Assad's secular, sectarian, unjust and criminal regime to set up a just Islamic state."

Today's fighting came a day after a peace conference aiming to end Syria's civil war began in Switzerland. The conference is slated to be the first direct talks between Mr. Assad's government and rebels.

IRAN INVITES BUSINESS

DAVOS, Switzerland - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said today his country is ready to do business and honor a deal to curb its nuclear program, in a speech aimed at persuading world leaders of Tehran's willingness to engage the global community.

Mr. Rouhani claimed the spotlight at the annual World Economic Forum as the event coincided with the lifting of some international sanctions on Iran and the country's exclusion from Syrian peace talks being held just a few hours' drive away.

"I see the status of Iran pursuing policies of moderation, prudence and hope in the future global economy," Mr. Rouhani said. "Iran's economy has the potential to be among the world's top 10 in the next three decades."

Mr. Rouhani, accompanied by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, emphasized that Tehran will abide by the terms of a deal with world powers to limit its nuclear program. In exchange, it is getting some sanctions relief and $4.2 billion in overseas assets are being freed up. Over the next half-year, Iran and world powers will try to forge a permanent deal.

The agreement paves the way for new business deals that Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Zarif will be eager to discuss at the forum, which brings together about 2,500 political leaders, corporate tycoons and other public figures in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

CENTRAL AFRICAN LEADER URGES PEACE

BANGUI, Central African Republic - Interim President Catherine Samba-Panza urged fighters to put down their arms as she took the oath of office today, even as looters pillaged Muslim neighborhoods and sectarian tensions escalated in the anarchic Central African Republic. …

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