UN gives Iraq ethnic report on Kirkuk

BAGHDAD - Iraqi leaders received on Wednesday a highly anticipated U.N. report on proposals to ease ethnic rifts in the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk and other disputed areas, a U.N. spokesman said.

The report is not binding for Iraqi authorities, but it could offer a blueprint to try to solve the political impasse over Kirkuk, the hub for Iraq's northern oil fields and a fault line for the nation's Arab and Kurdish populations.

A spokesman for the U.N. mission in Iraq, Said Arikat, said the report was given to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other top officials. He refused to discuss the contents of the report.

But it's expected to offer recommendations to ease tensions in the northern city of Kirkuk, such as possible 'special status' that would allow joint oversight from the Arab-dominated government in Baghdad and the Kurdish region in the north.

Commandos march pirates to Kenyan jail

MOMBASA, Kenya - Masked French commandos marched a band of barefoot, glum-looking pirate suspects down the gangplank of a naval frigate Wednesday in Mombasa before turning the 11 Somali men over to Kenyan authorities.

French officials said the suspects will be tried for their alleged April 14 attack on the Liberian cargo ship Safmarine Asia.

The pirates, who did not smile or speak to reporters as they left the French warship Nivose, appeared to range from in age from 20 to 40.

French officials also handed over the pirates' equipment: two skiffs, three grappling hooks, four rusty assault rifles, two bags of bullets and a ladder.

Taliban gaining ground, control in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD - Taliban militants have extended their grip in northwestern Pakistan, pushing out from a valley where the government has agreed to impose Islamic law and patrolling villages as close as 60 miles from the capital.

Police and officials appear to have fled as armed militants also broadcast radio sermons and spread fear in Buner district, just 60 miles from Islamabad, officials and witnesses said Wednesday.

Pakistan's president signed off on the peace pact last week in hopes of calming the town of Swat.