Following is a summary of current world news briefs.
White House asked for options to strike Iran: WSJ
The White House's national security team last fall asked the Pentagon to provide it with options for striking Iran after a group of militants aligned with Tehran fired mortars into an area in Baghdad that is home to the U.S. Embassy, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. The request by the National Security Council, which is led by John Bolton, sparked deep concern among Pentagon and State Department officials, the newspaper reported, citing current and former U.S. officials.
Iran says it is taking initial steps to design reactor fuel
Iran is taking preliminary steps to design uranium fuel with a purity of 20 percent for reactors instead of having to copy foreign designs, Iran's nuclear chief said on Sunday. Iran's 2015 nuclear accord with world powers caps the level to which it is able to enrich uranium to 3.67 percent purity, well below the 20 percent it was reaching before the deal, and the roughly 90 percent that is weapons-grade.
Venezuela intelligence agents detain opposition leader Guaido: wife
Venezuelan intelligence agents have detained opposition leader and congress chief Juan Guaido, his wife and several opposition legislators said on Sunday. Guaido on Friday said he was willing to assume the presidency after the opposition declared President Nicolas Maduro's second term to be illegitimate.
France's Le Pen launches EU campaign with appeal to 'yellow vests'
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen launched her campaign for the May 26 European Parliament election on Sunday with an appeal to the broad "yellow vest" protest movement that has rattled the government. Le Pen urged the tens of thousands of protesters who have staged weekly protests against President Emmanuel Macron since November to make the EU vote a referendum on his policies.
Leftist militant Battisti extradited to Italy after arrest in Bolivia
Italian former leftist guerrilla Cesare Battisti, convicted of murder and on the run for almost four decades after escaping prison, was extradited to Italy after being arrested in Bolivia, officials said on Sunday. His extradition was confirmed in a statement from the Brazilian government, where Battisti lived for several years until recently fleeing to Bolivia.
Australian premier plans Fiji, Vanuatu visit to offset China influence
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday he will visit Fiji and Vanuatu this week as part of a push to offset China's growing influence in the South Pacific. Morrison heads to Vanuatu on Wednesday, in the first visit by an Australian prime minister to the Pacific island nation in three decades. He then will go to Fiji, returning on Friday, a spokesman said.
With 2,300-word letter, Macron launches debate to quell 'yellow vest' unrest
President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday kicked off a three-month national debate he hopes can quell the "yellow vest" unrest with a letter to the French in which he pledged to listen to new ideas but stuck to his core economic reform agenda. Macron's initiative comes after nine weeks of protests by the "yellow vests" -- named after the high-visibility jackets they wear. The disparate anti-government uprising has wreaked havoc in Paris and French cities, shaken the economy and challenged his authority.
Ahead of vote, UK PM May warns it would be catastrophic to halt Brexit
British Prime Minister Theresa May warned lawmakers on Sunday that failing to deliver Brexit would be catastrophic for democracy, in a plea for support two days before parliament is expected to reject her deal with Brussels. With the clock ticking down to its March 29 exit from the European Union, and parliament deadlocked, Britain faces a hugely uncertain path that could lead to a disorderly exit or even remaining in the bloc.
Urging Gulf states to heal rift, U.S.'s Pompeo lands in Riyadh
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that a rift between Qatar and its Gulf Arab neighbors had gone on for too long and was threatening regional unity needed to counter Iran. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and non-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member Egypt cut diplomatic, transport and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and their regional foe Shi'ite Muslim Iran - something Doha denies.
Myanmar court rejects appeal by jailed Reuters reporters
A Myanmar court on Friday rejected the appeal of two Reuters reporters sentenced to seven years in jail on charges of breaking the Official Secrets Act, saying the defense had not provided sufficient evidence to show they were innocent. Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were convicted by a lower court in September in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar's progress toward democracy and sparked an outcry from diplomats and human rights advocates.
(With inputs from agencies.)