World briefs: Bomb attacks kill 26 in Iraq

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BAGHDAD -- At least 26 people were killed and 130 wounded in a series of bombings Wednesday in Iraq, security officials said. The bombings apparently targeted Kurds.

In the most lethal attack, 15 people, including eight Kurdish security personnel, were killed and 100 wounded in a car bombing at a complex housing the Kurdistan Democratic Party and non-governmental organizations in the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Kirkuk is at the center of a dispute between the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq and the Baghdad government.

The attacks come amid a widening crisis between Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the country's formerly dominant Sunni minority.

Building collapse kills 36

CAIRO -- At least 36 people were feared dead after the collapse of an apartment building Wednesday in Egypt's coastal city of Alexandria, medical and security officials said.

Seventeen bodies had been removed from the eight-story building, and it was suspected that 19 remained under the rubble, they added.

Egypt has suffered several such accidents in recent years, mostly blamed on building code violations as well as degraded older housing stock.

Morsi clarifies comments

CAIRO -- A spokesman for President Mohammed Morsi said Wednesday that inflammatory comments that he made about Jews before taking office had been intended as criticism of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians but had been taken out of context. The spokesman said that Mr, Morsi respected all monotheistic religions and religious freedom.

It was Mr. Morsi's first public response to news reports that as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood he had made anti-Semitic statements about Jews and Zionists.

Israel to expand housing

JERUSALEM -- Only a day after reports that President Barack Obama had scathing words for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's settlement policy and six days before Israeli elections, more construction was announced Wednesday.

The Housing Ministry issued tenders for another 198 settlement apartments, 84 of them planned for the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, one of the more sensitive locations in the West Bank.

Housing Minister Ariel Atias told Israeli media these were part of the thousands of apartments the government decided to market "after hearing Abu Mazen's speech at the United Nations" in November, a reference to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who at that time won support from the U.N. General Assembly for raising the Palestinians' status in the international body. Mr. Atias dismissed criticism that the timing was related to the election.

2 die in helicopter crash

LONDON -- A helicopter crashed into a crane and fell on a crowded street in central London during rush hour Wednesday, sending flames and black plumes of smoke into the air. The pilot and one person on the ground were killed and 13 others injured, officials said.

The helicopter crashed in misty weather just south of the River Thames near the Underground and mainline train station at Vauxhall, and close to the headquarters of spy agency MI6.

Police said one person had critical injuries. Six were taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries and seven treated at the scene, ambulance officials said.

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