AP Top News at 1:03 p.m. EST

US Defense Secretary Mattis: US will stay in Iraq a while
BAGHDAD (AP) - U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday he believes U.S. forces will be in Iraq and in the fight against Islamic State militants for a while, despite some rocky times between the two nations. Speaking at the end of a day of meetings in Baghdad with military commanders and Iraqi political leaders, Mattis said he is open to any request from his military commanders to aid the battle to retake Mosul and launch a major battle to oust IS from the base of its so-called caliphate in Raqqa, Syria. He would not provide details. Despite President Donald Trump's past threats to take Iraq's oil and his attempt to impose a travel ban that includes Iraqi citizens, Mattis said his meetings with Iraqi leaders underscored the partnership the U.S.


Pence tries to reassure anxious Europeans on US support
BRUSSELS (AP) - U.S. Vice President Mike Pence moved Monday to assuage European Union fears about the strength of Washington's support for the union and its commitment to European security through the NATO military alliance. During meetings in Brussels, Pence said he was acting on behalf of President Donald Trump "to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union." "Whatever our differences, our two continents share the same heritage, the same values and above all the same purpose: to promote peace and prosperity through freedom, democracy and the rule of law," he told reporters after talks with EU Council President Donald Tusk.


Trump tries to move past controversies, toward legislating
WASHINGTON (AP) - As President Donald Trump begins his second month in office, his team is trying to move past the crush of controversies that overtook his first month and make progress on health care and tax overhauls long sought by Republicans. Both issues thrust Trump, a real estate executive who has never held elected office, into the unfamiliar world of legislating. The president has thus far relied exclusively on executive powers to muscle through policy priorities and has offered few details about what he'll require in any final legislative packages, like how the proposals should be paid for. The White House also sent conflicting signals about whether the president will send Congress his own legislative blueprints or let lawmakers drive the process.


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Iraqi troops advance on western Mosul as Mattis holds talks
SOUTH OF MOSUL, Iraq (AP) - Iraqi forces advanced Monday into the southern outskirts of Mosul on the second day of a push to drive Islamic State militants from the city's western half, as the visiting U.S. defense secretary met with officials to discuss the fight against the extremists. With aerial support from the U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi police and army troops launched the offensive Sunday, part of a 100-day-old campaign that has already driven the militants from the eastern half of the city. Iraqi helicopters fired rockets at the village of Abu Saif early Monday, targeting a hill that overlooks the city's airport.


Russia's ambassador to United Nations dies in NYC at 64
NEW YORK (AP) - Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died suddenly Monday after falling ill in his office at the mission, Russian officials said. Churkin, 64, was rushed to NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center in New York, where he died, Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, told The Associated Press. His cause of death wasn't immediately known. Churkin had been Russia's envoy at the United Nations since 2006 and was considered Moscow's great champion at the U.N. He had a reputation for an acute wit and sharp repartee, especially with his American and Western counterparts. Russia's foreign ministry called Churkin an "outstanding" diplomat and expressed condolences to his friends and family.


Trans-Atlantic relations put to test in Trump's first month
BRUSSELS (AP) - After President Donald Trump's raucous first month in office, Europeans have reacted with demonstrations, counter-barbs and sheer angst that a century of trans-Atlantic friendship may be sinking. "Too much has happened," European Union leader Donald Tusk said Monday, "for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be." The governments of some traditional allies have gone a step further, uniting with fundraising plans and a special conference to balance the new U.S. administration's reverse tack from Barack Obama's presidency on abortion policies. Beyond Trump's orders on immigration, few of the administration's policies have unsettled many European nations as much as his ban on funding for international groups that perform abortions or provide information about abortions to women in developing nations.


Special delivery: US-born panda cub Bao Bao bound for China
WASHINGTON (AP) - The National Zoo is packing up its American-born panda cub Bao Bao for a one-way flight to China, where the 3-year-old will eventually join a panda breeding program. The cub won't have to worry about finding overhead bin space or dealing with a talkative seatmate on the 16-hour, nonstop flight Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday. She'll be the only panda on the plane, traveling with a keeper and a veterinarian. Her accommodations are first class, too: a special metal crate the size of a double bed she can stretch out in. A sticker on its outside announces its contents: "one panda."


Supreme Court weighs case of Mexican boy slain across border
WASHINGTON (AP) - Sixty feet and the U.S-Mexico border separated the unarmed, 15-year-old Mexican boy and the U.S. Border Patrol agent who killed him with a gunshot to the head early on a June evening in 2010. U.S. officials chose not to prosecute Agent Jesus Mesa Jr. and the Obama administration refused a request to extradite him so that he could face criminal charges in Mexico. When the parents of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca tried to sue Mesa in an American court for violating their son's rights, federal judges dismissed their claims. The Supreme Court on Tuesday is hearing the parents' appeal, which their lawyers say is their last hope for some measure of justice.


N. Korean envoy blasts Malaysians, calls for joint probe
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - North Korea's ambassador to Malaysia on Monday denounced the country's investigation into the death of the exiled half brother of North Korea's ruler, calling it politically motivated and demanding a joint probe amid increasingly bitter exchanges between the once-friendly nations. Malaysia responded with its own accusations, with a foreign ministry statement saying the ambassador's comments were "culled from delusions, lies and half-truths." Earlier Monday, Malaysia said it was recalling its ambassador to Pyongyang. The diplomatic spat comes in the wake of the death last week of Kim Jong Nam, who died after apparently being poisoned in the Kuala Lumpur airport.


Death, diplomatic spat could cost North Korea a rare friend
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - North Korea doesn't have many friends. There's China, its closest ally, and Singapore, where the North Korean elite have long gone in search of investors and shipping contracts. There are neighbors like Russia, and other nations isolated by politics and sanctions, like Syria and Cuba. Until recently there was also - sort of - Malaysia. While it isn't one of Pyongyang's key diplomatic partners, it is one of the few places in the world where North Koreans can travel without a visa. As a result, for years, it's been a quiet destination for Northerners looking for jobs, schools and business deals.