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March 24, 2013 at 5:00 PM   |   Comments

No agreement to halt Iranian arms

BAGHDAD, March 24 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry initially failed Sunday to get an agreement from Iraq to stop the flow of Iranian weapons to Syria.

CBS News reported that a "spirited discussion" during a two-hour meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not produce the result demanded by the United States.

Kerry later said the United States agreed to provide more information on the Iranian overflights and their cargo to the Iraqi government, CBS said.

Iraqi officials insist the Iranian planes are only delivering non-lethal humanitarian support, but a senior official traveling with Kerry told CBS there is substantial evidence against the claims.

Kerry said there are members of Congress "who are increasingly watching what Iraq is doing."

Speaking at a news conference at the American Embassy in Baghdad, Kerry said that Iraq allowing the Syrian flights -- and supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad -- is "problematic" and not representative of "common goals" between the United States and Iraq, The New York Times reported.

Kerry's meeting with Maliki was part of his first visit to Iraq as secretary of state and the first visit of a U.S. secretary of state to the country since Hilary Clinton in 2009, The Washington Post reported.


NRA: Checks won't stop mass shootings

WASHINGTON, March 24 (UPI) -- The National Rifle Association chief said background checks wouldn't have stopped some mass shootings because the suspects were "unrecognizable" to the system.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told NBC's "Meet the Press" moderator David Gregory the suspects in mass shootings in Tucson, Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn., wouldn't have been prevented from buying a weapon -- and in several instances did so legally prior to carrying out their acts -- because mental health provisions aren't considered in background checks as they're performed now.

"Here's the loophole ... the mental health laws, the medical records" aren't accessible in background checks, LaPierre said. "The Adam Lanzas, the shooters in Aurora, the shooters in Newtown, they're unrecognizable."

LaPierre said the existing retail background checks only hinder law-abiding gun owners and does nothing to prevent illegal arms trafficking.

LaPierre was responding to calls from gun control advocates including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also appeared on "Meet the Press" Sunday, for universal background checks on all gun sales. At present, about 40 percent of the gun sales in the United States are not subject to background checks, though recent polling suggests a large majority of Americans support closing the so-called "gun show loophole."

"This is about the public having the right to buy arms and the right to ... protect themselves and the right to use them for sport, for hunting," Bloomberg said. "But also, it's about the public's right to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. That's in everybody's interests."


Prison gang suspected in Clements death

DENVER, March 24 (UPI) -- The killing of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements may be linked to a white supremacist gang, sources told The Denver Post.

Law enforcement is trying to determine whether Clements, who was shot and killed in the doorway to his Monument, Colo., home, was the subject of an ordered "hit" by the group -- or one of its members acted alone, The Denver Post said Sunday, citing anonymous sources close to the investigation.

The gang, the 211 Crew, ran together inside Sterling Correctional Complex before state prison officials opted to break them up by transferring some members to Buena Vista Correctional Center.

Police said a bullet casing found at the scene of Clements' killing matches that of casings found following a high speed chase and shoot-out in Texas involving noted 211 Crew member Evan Spencer Ebel, 28. Ebel was killed in the incident Thursday, Texas police said.

Ebel was implicated in the killing of a pizza deliveryman two days prior to his shoot-out with police.

He was released on mandatory parole Jan. 28, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's office said.


No 'third party' in Berezovsky death

LONDON, March 24 (UPI) -- British authorities said they have ruled out "third-party involvement" in the death of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.

Specialists in nuclear, chemical and biological hazards checked Berezovsky's estate in Berkshire for potential threats as part of the ongoing investigation into the tycoon's death. Officials were hesitant to call his death a suicide though unconfirmed reports suggested that was the case.

"It would be wrong to speculate on the cause of death until the postmortem has been carried out. We do not have any evidence at this stage to suggest third-party involvement," said Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Brown.

Berezovsky, 67, was a one-time power broker in Russia who fled the country in 2000 after a falling out with Vladimir Putin. He was later convicted in absentia of embezzling $2 billion from two state-run companies in Russia, the British newspaper The Guardian said Sunday.

Acquaintances told reporters Berezovsky had been depressed recently about personal relationships and an expensive court battle with fellow Russian mogul Roman Abramovich, the owner of Britain's Chelsea soccer club. That was compounded by a former mistress's claim he owed her several million after the sale of a home they shared.

An unnamed friend told The Guardian Berezovsky had talked of suicide and hoped he would die, but doubted he would have gone through with the act.

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