World Briefs

Chevron signs deal with Iraqi Kurds

BAGHDAD – U.S. oil giant Chevron said Thursday it signed a deal with Iraqi Kurds to explore for oil in their northern region, defying the central government which wants to control the area’s oil wealth.

The agreement makes Chevron the second U.S. company to secure oil deals with Kurds in conflict with Baghdad, after Exxon Mobil Corp. agreed last October to explore for oil in six areas.

Spain: Massive protests against austerity cuts

MADRID – Tens of thousands of angry Spaniards protested in 80 cities throughout Spain on Thursday against the government’s latest austerity package, blaming officials for “ruining” the country.

Protesters flooded Madrid’s main Puerta del Sol square and the streets in front of parliament late into the night. Large deployments of riot police manned barricades in front of the legislature, fearing rising tensions could lead to violence.

Large crowds also gathered in Barcelona and Bilbao, while leading Spanish newspaper El Pais estimated on its website that more than 100,000 had attended the rally in the capital.

Israel releases Hamas leader from prison

RAMALLAH, West Bank – Israel on Thursday released one of the Islamic militant Hamas movement’s most senior members, the speaker of the now-defunct Palestinian parliament. Abdel Aziz Dweik, 64, was freed after serving six months without charges, his aide Baha Mahmoud said. Israel confirmed the release.

Hamas says 17 of the movement’s 45 West Bank legislators currently are in prison. Dweik previously served 33 months of a three-year sentence for belonging to Hamas, considered a terror organization by Israel and the West.

Mideast nations declaretoday start of Ramadan

CAIRO – Religious authorities in most Middle Eastern countries declared that today will be the start of the holy month of Ramadan, a period devoted to dawn-to-dusk fasting, prayers and good deeds.

Political differences and religious disputes between Sunni- and Shiite-majority countries in the region often have played a role in different starting dates for the holy month, which usually is calculated based on the sighting of a new moon.

Associated Press